UNICEF offers critical steps to protect Syrian children
March 14, Damascus: Unless the needs and rights of the more than eight million Syrian children are addressed, an entire generation will be lost, along with decades of development progress, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warns in a new report that calls on the international community to protect the youngest civilians amidst “a children's crisis.”
According to the report, “No Place for Children,” some 8.4 million children – more than 80 per cent of Syria's child population – are now affected by the conflict, either inside the country or as refugees in neighbouring countries.
“What are we to say to them and to all the children of Syria? That we don't care if they become a lost generation, because of losses in learning and good health that will affect them for years to come?” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake asks in the first pages of the report.
“We cannot restore the precious years of childhood snatched away by this brutal war, but we can and must prevent their futures from also being stolen,” he added. “For their futures are the future of Syria.”
The report notes the various ways that children are impacted by the conflict, and offers five critical steps for protecting them.
Thirteen-year-old Mohammed, who is a refugee in Turkey, told UNICEF he does not know how to view his future.
Violence has become 'commonplace'
Released on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict, the report notes that some 3.7 million Syrian children are five years of age or older. With a conflict that is now “the most deadly and complex” of our time, it is also the only way of life that these youngsters have ever known.
War is part of everyday life for Syrian children, some 7 million of whom live in poverty, said Peter Salama, UNICEF's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Violence has become commonplace, reaching homes, schools, hospitals, clinics, parks, playgrounds and places of worship,” said Mr. Salama.
As a result, there are few safe places for children, leading UNICEF to say in the report that “more than ever, it is a children's crisis.”
UNICEF verified nearly 1,500 grave violations against children in 2015, according to the report. More than 60 per cent of these violations were instances of killing and maiming as a result of explosive weapons used in populated areas, often as the child was heading to or from school.
The Oslo Times