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Syrian Children 'Forgotten Victims' of Crisis, Says Aid Group

  • Selah Hennessy

Syrian refugee children play with clay after workers end work at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, September 2, 2012.

Syrian refugee children play with clay after workers end work at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, September 2, 2012.

One in three Syrian children report having been hit, kicked or shot at during the country's bloody two-year conflict, according to the charity Save the Children.

Save the Children’s Saba Mubaslat spoke to VOA from Amman, the capital of Jordan. Syrian refugees have been flooding across the border into Jordan and other neighboring countries, many to stay in sprawling and overcrowded camps.

Mubaslat described watching the children as they arrive by bus at Zataari camp, the largest in Jordan. "You look at the faces and they are so expressionless," Mubaslat said. "Children do not know how to react to their new realities. Losing everything, leaving everything behind - your house, your playground, your school, peers, extended family - and coming to a completely new place called a "camp" is devastating to children."

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The charity's report, published Wednesday, references research carried out by Bahcesehir University in Turkey.

It said children have been targeted. Young boys, it said, are being used by armed groups as porters, runners and human shields and some girls are being married early to ‘protect’ them from feared sexual violence.

Mubaslat said many children arriving at camps appear traumatized. She described one boy who, she said, didn’t have the vocabulary to describe his experiences.

“The only way by which that little kid could really express that tragedy by continuously drawing pictures of guns and dead bodies and a lot of blood all around the page - it was really painful seeing that from a child who is only six years old,” Mubaslat said.

The charity's report said children inside Syria are under constant risk of malnutrition, disease, and trauma.

A separate report published by the United Nations Children’s Fund on Tuesday also highlighted the plight of children in Syria’s conflict.

It said nearly half of the four million people in need of aid inside Syria are under the age of 18. More than 500,000 are children under the age of five.

UNICEF estimates that one in every five schools in Syria has either been destroyed or is being used by displaced people seeking shelter.

According to U.N. rules, non-governmental organizations must be authorized to work inside Syria by the Syrian government. About a dozen international NGO’s have received that permission, but rebels say the distribution of aid is unequal.

Save the Children wants the U.N. Security Council to back a plan to end the violence and ensure children across Syria get humanitarian aid.

Spokeswoman Mubaslat said, “Humanitarian organizations are waiting for permission to go inside Syria and provide services. Until now we did not succeed in convincing the Syrian government that this access would lessen the pressure.”

Save the Children compiled its report, called “Childhood Under Fire,” to mark two years since the start of Syria’s conflict.
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