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A generation of Syrian children at risk as conflict enters third year - UNICEF

2013-03-12

More than 2 million children affected across the region

AMMAN/TORONTO/NEW YORK, 12 March 2013 – The unrelenting violence, massive population displacement, and damage to infrastructure and essential services caused by the Syrian conflict risk leaving an entire generation of children scarred for life, according to a UNICEF report issued today. 

“As millions of children inside Syria and across the region witness their past and their futures disappear amidst the rubble and destruction of this prolonged conflict, the risk of them becoming a lost generation grows every day,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. 

The report – marking the two-year point in the Syria crisis – says that in areas where the fighting is most intense access to water has fallen by two-thirds resulting in increased skin and respiratory diseases, while one in five schools has been destroyed, damaged, or is being used to shelter displaced families. In Aleppo, for example, only 6 per cent of children are currently attending school. Classes that still function are sometimes crammed with as many as 100 children.

Hospitals and health centres have been wrecked and skilled staff has fled. 

Meanwhile children are suffering the trauma of seeing family members and friends killed, while being terrified by the sounds and scenes of conflict.

“We urge all parties to allow unhindered access to children affected by the violence – wherever they are,” said Mr Lake. “We can only meet the growing needs of this crisis if we get the help we need today.”

Since the start of the crisis, the response by UNICEF and its partners has focused on providing drinking water and sanitation, health, education and child protection services to families displaced inside Syria and to refugee populations across the region.

As a result, 4 million people inside the country now have access to safe drinking water, while mobile health teams have helped take measles and polio vaccinations to 1.5 million children. Some 75,000 affected children are enrolled in schools and school clubs where they can catch up on their lost education and rediscover the semblance of a normal childhood.

In Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, UNICEF assists more than 300,000 refugee children with services such as safe water, adequate sanitation, education, specialist care and protection from exploitation and abuse.

However, these efforts are threatened by a critical shortage of funding. In December 2012, UNICEF appealed for US$195 million for life-saving assistance for Syrian children and their families until June 2013. To date, the appeal is less than 20 per cent funded.

Canadians can provide lifesaving support to Syrian children by making a donation at www.unicef.ca/syria.

The report, titled Syria's children: A lost generation, can be downloaded here

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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 updates, please join the Twitter conversation with @UNICEFLive and #syria2yearson.

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.