GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — The United Nations reports one million Syrian children are refugees from conflict in their country.
Two U.N. agencies say Syria’s war, which is well into its third year, is the most serious crisis facing children today. They say children make up half of all the Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries and increasingly to North Africa and Europe.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the children arrive in countries of asylum traumatized, depressed and angry.
“If one looks at the number of refugee children, if one adds about 2 million children that are internally displaced inside Syria and the millions that are trapped in their villages, in their cities in the middle of a war, we can really talk of the enormous risk of Syria facing the problem of a lost generation,” said Guterres.
Latest U.N. figures show three quarters of the child refugees are under the age of 11. The U.N. agencies report that nearly 167,000 refugee children have received psychological counseling. But many others that need such help are not getting it.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt said the children's crisis is escalating. One year ago, there were 70,000 Syrian refugee children, compared to the current number of one million.
“Children that have to run away from horror and are traumatized, children being denied a normal childhood and then face the risk, serious protection risks - sexual exploitation, child labor, early marriage. But also children that are robbed of their future because they are missing out on their third year in school, and increasingly children also becoming angry and frustrated at their plight,” said Brandt.
The U.N. says some of the refugee children have been recruited as child soldiers at a camp in Jordan and at camps in Iraq. They say more than 3,500 children in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have crossed from Syria unaccompanied or separated from their families.