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14 million children impacted by conflict in Syria and Iraq: UNICEF

2015-03-12

As Syria crisis enters fifth year, more support urged for young adolescents

TORONTO/AMMAN, 12 March 2015 – Some 14 million children across the region are now suffering from the escalating conflict sweeping Syria and much of Iraq, said UNICEF today. This is more than the entire population of Ontario.

With the conflict in Syria now entering its fifth year, the situation of more than 5.6 million children inside the country remains the most desperate. That includes up to two million children who are living in areas of the country largely cut off from humanitarian assistance due to fighting or other factors.

In the last year alone, there was more evidence of extreme cases of violence against and involving children. With more than 60 recorded attacks on schools, 2.6 million Syrian children are still out of school.

“We call on the world to see these horrors through the eyes of the children,” said UNICEF Canada President and CEO David Morley. “Children and adolescents are being scarred by conflict, denied of their rights and lured into a cycle of violence. We cannot risk losing an entire generation.”

The Syria crisis has also forced almost two million Syrian children to live as refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and other countries. This is in addition to the 3.6 million children from vulnerable communities hosting refugees, who themselves are suffering due to the strain on services like education and health.

Meanwhile, the increasingly interlinked crisis gripping Iraq has forced more than 2.8 million children from their homes, and left many trapped in areas controlled by armed groups.

UNICEF response highlights for Syria and the region in 2014:

  • Over 25 million children vaccinated against polio
  • Over 17 million people provided with safe water
  • Over 3 million children provided with access to learning materials
  • Over 847,000 children provided with psychosocial support

Children and adolescents continue to demonstrate incredible courage and determination in the face of conflict. In a series of new portraits unveiled on a special website, childrenofsyria.info, UNICEF recounts stories such as that of 16-year-old Alaa, who fled his home in the war-torn city of Homs, and is today continuing his studies while leading training courses for other children, and 10-year-old Christina, living in a shelter in the north of Iraq who helps even younger children with their lessons.

Despite the harm they have suffered, the wrongs they have endured, and the apparent inability of adults to bring an end to this horrific conflict, the children affected by this crisis still have courage and determination to build better lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Seeing their determination, how can we be any less determined to help them? Knowing that they have not given up hope, how can we?”

UNICEF is urging longer-term investments to meet the needs of children and adolescents, to equip them with the skills and motivation to build a more stable future for themselves.

UNICEF calls for:

  • An end to the conflict. If efforts are not increased to bring a rapid end to this crisis, the painful repercussions for countries around the world will surely escalate.
  • More investment specifically in adolescents and youth. More opportunities need to be created for remedial education, vocational training, and recreation. Youth require particular support to engage them in constructive community-based socio-economic activities that can provide skills and livelihoods.
  • More support for learning. This should include investment in remote learning and certification so that children who cannot attend physical schools do not fall behind, and have recognized certification to maintain their academic status. Teachers need to continue to be supported with training and resources.
  • More protection for those at risk. More needs to be done to raise awareness in communities on child protection concerns, including recruitment by armed forces and groups. Community-based child protection initiatives should be supported, while comprehensive services are needed for children at risk and for survivors of violence.
  • An end to the direct involvement of children in the conflict. In the past year the number of groups and militias recruiting children to join the fighting has increased. More active engagement is needed with these groups and those who have influence over them to halt this dangerous trend.
  • Increased support to host communities. Additional support is needed to create opportunities for education, better health and livelihoods, and also strengthen local infrastructure and support national development plans. Investments need to meet immediate needs but also focus on longer-term growth and development, so all communities affected by this crisis see the benefits for their children.
  • Improved access to children. The humanitarian community calls for urgent, regular access to children living in hard-to-reach areas throughout Syria. Renewed commitments are needed from all parties to the conflict to guarantee regular, safe access for humanitarian workers, protection of civilian populations and to allow those populations to safely access assistance.

UNICEF Canada and UNICEF regional spokespeople are available for interviews. Broll, photos and multimedia assets can be downloaded from: http://uni.cf/1AdpGZI

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About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.