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  Issue Date: 4 / 2017  
 

Suffering of Children in War-Torn Syria ‘Hits Rock Bottom’



IPS World Desk
 

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa Click image to enlarge.

       The suffering of children in war-torn Syria “hit rock bottom” in 2016 with the highest number of grave violations against them since verification began in 2014, underscored the United Nations children’s agency.
       
       According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least 652 children were killed last year – a 20 per cent increase ccompared to 2015 – 255 among them were killed in or near a school.
       
       Maiming and recruitment of children also rose sharply as violence across the country saw a drastic escalation, UNICEF on March 13 said UNICEF in a grim assessment of the conflict’s impact on children, as the war reaches six years.
       
       Verified instances of killing, maiming and recruitment of children increased sharply last year in a drastic escalation of violence across the country.
       
       • At least 652 children were killed – a 20 per cencent increase from 2015 – making 2016 the worst year for Syria’s children sinnce the formal verification of child casualties began in 2014.

       
       • 2555 children were killed in or near a school.
       
       • More than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, more than double the number recruited in 2015. Children are being used and recruited to fight directly on the frontlines and are increasingly taking part in combat roles, including in extreme cases as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.
       
       • There were at leaast 338 attacks against hospitals and medical personnel .
       
       “The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,” said the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, announcing the study Hitting Rock Bottom – How 2016 became the worst year for Syria’s children.
       
       “Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future,” he added.
       
       The UN agency also highlighted that challenges accessing several parts of the country obstructed a full assessment of children’s suffering and delivering urgently needed humanitarian assistance.
       
       The most vulnerable among Syria’s children are the 2.8 million in hard-to-reach areas, including 280,000 children living under siege, almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid.
       
       “Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult,” read the release.
       
       UNICEF also warned that coping mechanisms are eroding both within Syria and across its borders – families are taking extreme measures just to survive, oftten pushing children into early marriage and child labour.
       
       After six years of war, nearly six million children now depend on humanitarian assistance, a twelve-fold increase from 2012. Millions of children have been displaced, some up to seven times.
       
       According to estimates, over 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
       
       However, there are some “remarkable stories” of children determined to pursue their hopes and aspirations, added the UN agency.
       
       “We continue to witness the courage of Syria’s children,” said Cappelaere. “Many have crossed frontlines just to sit for school exams. They insist on learning, including in underground schools. There is so much more we can and should do to turn the tide for Syria’s children.”
       
       “Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult.”
       
       UNICEF also warned that coping mechanisms are eroding both within Syria and across its borders – families are taking extreme measures just to survive, oftten pushing children into early marriage and child labour.
       
       After six years of war, nearly six million children now depend on humanitarian assistance, a twelve-fold increase from 2012. Millions of children have been displaced, some up to seven times.
       
       According to estimates, over 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
       
       Copyright IPS News, 2017


 
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