UNITED NATIONS, April 21 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Friday that more than 150 children have died crossing the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy this year.
According to UNICEF estimates, at least 849 people, including more than 150 children, died at sea while trying to reach European shores using the Central Mediterranean route since January.
"However, the agency stressed that this number is almost certainly higher since many children are unaccompanied and their deaths go unreported," Stephane Dujarric, UN spokesman, said at a daily news briefing.
Since the start of the year, nearly 37,000 refugees and migrants, 13 percent of whom are children, have reached Italy by sea via the Central Mediterranean, an increase of 42 percent when compared to the same time period in 2016, said Dujarric, citing UNICEF statistics.
"This is further evidence that when safe and legal pathways to migration are cut off, desperate children and families will do whatever they can to flee conflict, poverty and depravation," UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, Afshan Khan, was quoted as saying.