Helping kids in war zones

Caroline McCoo meets actress Tea Leoni
Caroline McCoo meets actress Tea Leoni

Two Unicef supporters have enlisted the help of their 
local MP to put pressure on the UK Government to safeguard schools in war zones.

Caroline McCoo from Bishopbriggs recently returned from a trip to New York where she toured the United Nations Building and met Holywood actress and Unicef ambassador Tea Leoni.

Along with fellow Unicef supporter Janice Mckenzie, they and East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson, are urging the UK government to do more to help children in danger.

Caroline said: “Both my tour and my meeting with Tea Leoni reinforced what I already knew, that the UK is at the forefront of decision making on the UN Security Council. Other countries look to us – along with the United States, France, Russia and China – to lead the way.

“With the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, hosting the World Humanitarian Summit in May, it is more important than ever that the UK signs up to the Safe Schools Declaration to show the rest of the world we are committed to protecting children and their right to have a safe environment for learning.”

Fifty-one countries have signed the declaration already, which sends out a clear message that schools must not be attacked or used for military purposes, but the UK is not among them.

East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson said he had written to UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on behalf of the two local campaigners and praised the efforts of Caroline and Janice.

He said: “The plight of these children can seem far removed from life in East Dunbartonshire where we have some of the best schools in the country, but we must remember the 24 million children living in war zones who are not able to go to school.

“The Safe Schools Declaration is an important initiative which aims to prevent schools and school children from becoming victims of war.

“Schools should provide a safe haven for children suffering under the most appalling circumstances.

“They should bring a moment of normality to their young lives. But we hear again and again of armed forces occupying schools, turning them into targets for bombing.

“It is to their great credit that Janice and Caroline work so hard to raise the profile of this issue and put pressure on the UK Government to sign up to the declaration.

“I was more than happy to write to the Foreign Secretary on their behalf.

“I’m grateful for their efforts and await his response with interest.”

The declaration is not legally binding but it asks states to protect education from attack and gives guidelines which set out simple, practical steps aimed at both state and non-state armed groups.