News / Middle East

Syrian War Takes Devastating Toll on Children

FILE - Children run across a street to avoid snipers in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, Feb. 16, 2014.
FILE - Children run across a street to avoid snipers in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, Feb. 16, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
The United Nations Children's Fund is calling attention to the affect that three years of conflict has had on Syria's young people, saying the crisis is the "most damaging conflict for children in the region's recent history."

According to a new UNICEF report released Tuesday, 5.5 million Syrian children now need assistance because of the war -- a number that has more than doubled in the past year. Among the hardest hit, it says are one million children living under siege and in hard to reach areas in Syria.

The report says of January, violence has killed more than 10,000 children in Syria, who are often are not accidental victims of war, but rather deliberately targeted.  Witnesses say children and infants have been killed by snipers, or become victims of summary executions or torture.  Schools have been bombed.

UNICEF highlighted what it called "deep developmental and emotional scars" left by the fighting.

The report notes 1.2 million refugee children living in camps and host communities in neighboring countries also suffer from the war.  They have limited access to clean water, nutritious food or opportunities for education.

Syria’s Children in CrisisSyria’s Children in Crisis
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Syria’s Children in Crisis
Syria’s Children in Crisis
Jane MacPhail, a UNICEF child protection specialist who works with refugees in Jordan, said many of the Syrian children "are in pure survival mode" and "forget normal social and emotional responses" to what they have seen.

UNICEF says thousands of Syrian refugee children have to work to support their destitute families and many girls are forced into early marriage.

Simon Ingram, UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Chief of Communication, says many Syrian internally displaced and refugee children are suffering profound emotional and psychological distress from the war. 

“Here we are talking about the hidden injuries, the hidden wounds that have been inflicted on children because of what they have experienced; the behavioral changes, the nightmares that they carry around with them - the way in which they can no longer function as normal children do.  And, this is an aspect of the crisis, which has been too often overlooked, but which is growing all the time," he explained.

The report says the millions of children affected by the crisis are at risk of becoming a "lost generation."

It cites the trouble kids have accessing education, both among those who have been forced to flee their homes and those who remain in areas where schools have been damaged, destroyed or taken over by fighters.

UNICEF said half of Syria's school-age population cannot go to classes on a regular basis and that about one in five schools cannot be used.

Another big risk facing Syrian children is the lack of adequate healthcare. The report says an estimated 60 percent of Syria's hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.

The result has been an increase in the number of pneumonia and diarrhea cases, as well as a greater vulnerability to diseases like the measles.

Last year, the U.N. started a massive, months-long vaccination campaign after Syria's first polio outbreak since 1999.

UNICEF said many of the children fleeing Syria arrive at the border malnourished as well.

The report sums up the threats facing Syria's kids by calling the country "one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a child."

The report also called for a number of steps to help alleviate the crisis which include ending the violence, increased access to children in besieged or hard-to-reach areas, more funding for psychological support and aid to help provide services in countries hosting Syrian refugees.

The fighting in Syria has continued despite international efforts to find a political solution to the crisis. Two rounds of peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and rebels trying to oust President Basher al-Gassed have yielded little progress, but those trying to mediate the process say they will continue to seek an agreement.

The U.N. estimates the total number of people killed in the fighting is well over 100,000, with 6.5 million people displaced within Syria and nearly 2.5 million refugees in neighboring countries.

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by: Anonymous
March 13, 2014 9:09 AM
About Assad and his recent photo he posted at a shelter in Adra... It's a propaganda photo to pretend he is a great guy. But it doesnt matter what he doesn now, his crimes have already been commited so they won't go away, he will be prosecuted eventually. He never cared about civilians before, don't know why he is now. I guess he realises he has to put on a show because he is going to be served justice whether he likes it or not, there is no escape for him.

I guess the saying goes "It's a little too late..."

by: Adisorn Yangcharoen from: Samutprakan, Thailand
March 12, 2014 1:35 AM
Killing children have to be denounced as the cowardly and despicable act of those responsible to the conflict. As Thai teacher, I believed that killing school age kids in Syria is the destruction of their own nation. Kids are forces to improve the country.

by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
March 11, 2014 10:24 PM
Israel.Saudi arabia,Turkey,Qatar,Jordon and NATO be ready in front of God. We can make fool in this world because we have power to make fool but no body can make fool on DAY OFJUDGEMENT in front of GOD. We have given so many tears and pain for these innocent children just to satisfy our self.

by: Anonymous
March 11, 2014 8:24 PM
Very very very sad situation in Syria, and that is children, not to mention women, and elderly, or even worse handicapped or people who have illnesses and need regular medical attention.

By the world donating towards help for these people is a good thing, but it will only continue to happen forever until there are consequences for those involved to face justice.

Many aerial bombardments in civilian populated areas kill lots of children. As well cordoning off areas by assads troops to try and starve the opposition from both food and medical supplies is also a crime. What a disgrace the UN has to ask assad to go in and help these victims.

Assad has shown ZERO remorse for ANY of his "accidental deaths" and has only killed more and more. There is something wrong with this picture. Since ww2 nearly every war criminal has been brought to justice. This day and age this should not be happening. Assad is not exempt from murdering anyone he likes.

Assad has never been taught he has to pay the price for the things you do in life, good or bad. Killing innocent people is the worst thing in the world one can do, even if you consider it "accidental". We the world have seen the brutality of the so called "Syrian Army" we have also seen it on the other side. The only way assad has ever known to stay in power is by brutality, just like his father did years ago. We know assad is responsible for what the Syrian army does, and so does assad.

The world would be a better place if assad was taken in by the International Criminal Court custody, and had to answer to his crimes. Even if it meant going after a secondary government if they took seat and committed crimes, they too should be held accountable. The more people assad kills, the more opposition will grow. He uses terror against the opposition, so of course they are going to do the same thing back with what little they have. The country is now plunged backwards 30 years in many areas or older due to the destruction.

What would you do if you came home from the corner store and your home was leveled to the ground and your entire family was killed by SAA bombardment with barrel bombs? Would you join the opposition trying to protect your own butt from being killed by assad in the future?...

by: meanbill from: USA
March 11, 2014 7:36 PM
WAR? ... should be the very last resort.. (be it a war with another country, or a civil war) .. and it's because of one-side or the other wanting to gain power over the other government..
WHY? ... did the US and EU fund and supply weapons to the anti-Assad fighters, (when no matter what, war is the last option?), and Syria was the most Democratic country in all Islam?
WHY? .. did the US and EU say Assad must go? ... after he had offered concessions, that the US and EU wouldn't accept, when it wasn't any of their business what Syria did?
WHO'S .. responsible for all these innocent men, women and children's deaths? .... LOOK who's supplying the funds and weapons to the anti-Assad fighters, and terrorists? ....... REALLY

by: Karen Spisak from: Tampa, FL
March 11, 2014 1:37 PM
I would like to share this, but would love for there to be links to ways people can help directly in the article.

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