GENEVA — The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday called for urgent assistance for children caught up in wildfires in Greece, considered to be the worst Europe has seen since the turn of the century.
Fueled by record temperatures and high winds, the deadly fires that began across the country in July have so far claimed 27 lives, including two children — both asylum seekers, according to news reports.
They were among 18 bodies discovered by Greek authorities on Aug. 22 in the national forest of Dadia, in the northeast, reportedly all asylum seekers. A 19th body was found last Thursday.
As of the end of 2022, around 86,600 refugees and asylum seekers have been sheltering in Greece, with refugees from Ukraine accounting for around 25 percent.
Children have been among the hardest hit by the disaster, said Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in the Mediterranean nation.
“They have lost their homes, families have lost their livelihoods, and some have lost their lives. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with all those affected and all those responding.”
Many children are also suffering health issues, especially due to the air pollution caused by the blaze.
UNICEF for its part is working with authorities and humanitarian partners to support children and their families, providing them with medical supplies, essential items and psychosocial support.
The risk of new fires — or the rapid spread of existing ones — is anticipated to remain high over the next 48 hours, according to media reports.
The flames have destroyed over 155,000 hectares of forests, farmlands and urban land so far, an area twice the size of New York City, and affected over 100,000 people, including around 30,000 children.
As flames moved toward a medical facility in northern Greece, 11 newborns were among patients in intensive care who have had to be moved to a makeshift hospital on a boat, UNICEF noted. — UN News