UN children’s agency UNICEF on Tuesday said it would scale up operations in Greece to support 22,000 migrant children, a tenth of them unaccompanied.
The decision was announced after singer Nana Mouskouri, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, visited migrant facilities last week.
"UNICEF is adjusting its strategy in support of the response by the authorities and civil society in Greece, where the humanitarian and longer-term needs of more than 22,000 children are growing," the organization said.
In partnership with local aid groups Faros and Solidarity Now, UNICEF currently supports a drop-in centre for refugee and migrant women and children in Athens and a mobile child protection unit in the port of Piraeus.
Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s special coordinator for the refugee crisis in Europe, said the organization would support programmes by the Greek government and other partners.
Particular attention will be paid to education and immunization, the group said, adding that there are currently an estimated 2,000 unaccompanied and separated refugee or migrant children in Greece.
"Our focus on children that are really the most vulnerable is welcome and appreciated, with early childhood development for very young children, education, vaccination and child protection as our priorities," Poirier said.
"A lot needs to be done," Ms Poirier added. "The focus on children needs to be taken to the next level," she said.
Greek-born Mouskouri visited refugee centres in Athens last week but the tour was closed to media.
In Monday’s statement, the acclaimed 81-year-old singer said she had met "very vulnerable people – children, women and men as well. They are very fragile." [AFP]