AS the conflict in Syria approaches another sombre milestone, more than twice as many children are now affected compared to 12 months ago, says a new report by UNICEF published this week.
Particularly hard hit are up to a million children who are trapped in areas of Syria that are under siege or that are hard to reach with humanitarian assistance due to continued violence.
Under Siege – the devastating impact on children of three years of conflict in Syria focuses on the immense damage caused to the 5.5 million children now affected by the conflict and calls for an immediate end to the violence and increased support for those affected.
The report includes the accounts of children whose lives have been devastated by the three year old war, and highlights the profound traumas many have experienced. Children such as four-year old Adnan, who fled with his family to Lebanon, suffered facial scarring when his home was bombed and still suffers from emotional distress. “He cries all night,” his mother is quoted as saying. “He is scared of everything and is afraid when we leave him, even for a second.”
UNICEF estimates that there are 2 million children like Adnan in need of psychological support or treatment.
“For Syria’s children, the past three years have been the longest of their lives. Must they endure another year of suffering?” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
The report warns that the future of 5.5 million children inside Syria and living as refugees in neighbouring countries hangs in the balance as violence, the collapse of health and education services, severe psychological distress and the worsening economic impact on families combine to devastate a generation.
The report draws attention to the suffering experienced by children and their families who have been trapped in areas under siege for many months. Cut off from aid, living in rubble and struggling to find food, many Syrian children have been left without protection, medical care or psychological support, and have little or no access to education. In the very worst cases children and pregnant women have been deliberately wounded or killed by snipers.
In host countries, 1.2 million Syrian children are now refugees living in camps and overwhelmed host communities, and have limited access to clean water, nutritious food or learning opportunities.
The report says that three years on, Syrian children have been forced to grow up faster than any child should. UNICEF estimates that 1 in 10 refugee children is now working and 1 in every 5 Syrian girls in Jordan is forced into early marriage.
The report calls on the global community to undertake six critical steps to:
– End the cycle of violence in Syria now
– Grant immediate access to the under-reached 1 million children inside Syria
– Create an environment where children are protected from exploitation and harm
– Invest in children’s education
– Help children’s inner healing through psychological care and support and
– Provide support to host communities and governments to mitigate the social and economic impact of the conflict on families.
“This war has to end so that children can return to their homes to rebuild their lives in safety with their family and friends. This third devastating year for Syrian children must be the last,” Lake said.
Source: UNICEF Australia