New UNICEF report as Syria crisis marks five years: One in three Syrian children has grown up knowing only conflict
AMMAN/NEW YORK/TORONTO, March 14, 2016—An estimated 3.7 million Syrian children – one in three of all Syrian children—have been born since the conflict began five years ago, their lives shaped by violence, fear and displacement, according to a UNICEF report released today. This figure includes more than 151,000 children born as refugees since 2011.
In the report, No Place for Children, UNICEF estimates that 8.4 million children—more than 80 per cent of Syria’s child population—are now affected by the conflict and in need, either inside the country or as refugees in neighbouring countries. Released on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Syrian crisis, No Place for Children emphasizes the devastating effect of this crisis on all aspects of children’s lives.
“Today is not an anniversary. It is not a special occasion to mark. Today is a tragedy,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. “Five years of war have left an entire generation of children uprooted, at risk, and uncertain of their futures and the future of their country. This report highlights the devastating effect of the crisis on Syria’s children, and a roadmap to reclaim these vital childhoods.”
“Thousands of remarkable people are in Syria and the surrounding countries doing life-saving work to make sure these children have a place to sleep, have food to eat, and have medicine when they get sick, but we need to do more to reach the more than eight million Syrian children at risk,” said Morley. “We call on all parties to end the attacks on education and health centres, and to let humanitarian aid reach those who need it most. And we call on Canadians to continue showing the compassion they have already, to make sure we aren’t in this same situation five years – or even one year – from now.”
New UNICEF report highlights tragic impact on Syria’s children
According to No Place for Children, UNICEF verified nearly 1,500 grave violations against children in 2015. More than 60 per cent of these violations were instances of killing and maiming as a result of explosive weapons used in populated areas. More than one-third of these children were killed while in school or on their way to or from school.
“In Syria, violence has become commonplace, reaching homes, schools, hospitals, clinics, parks, playgrounds and places of worship,” said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Nearly seven million children live in poverty, making their childhood one of loss and deprivation.”
In Syria’s neighbouring countries, the number of refugees is nearly ten times higher today than in 2012. Half of all refugees are children. More than 15,000 unaccompanied and separated children have crossed Syria’s borders.
“Five years into the war, millions of children have grown up too fast and way ahead of their time,” Salama said. “As the war continues, children are fighting an adult war, they are continuing to drop out of school, and many are forced into labour, while girls are marrying early.”
Child recruitment on the rise
In the earlier years of the conflict, most of the children recruited by armed forces and groups were boys between 15 and 17 years old, and they were used primarily in support roles away from the front lines. However, since 2014, all parties to the conflict have recruited children at much younger ages – as young as seven – and often without parental consent.
More than half of the UNICEF-verified cases of children recruited in 2015 were under 15 years old, compared with less than 20 per cent in 2014. These children are receiving military training and participating in combat, or taking up life-threatening roles at the battle-front, including carrying and maintaining weapons, manning checkpoints, and treating and evacuating war wounded. Parties to the conflict are using children to kill, including as executioners or snipers.
Without education, a generation can be lost
One of the most significant challenges to the conflict has been providing children with learning. School attendance rates inside Syria have hit rock bottom. UNICEF estimates that more than 2.1 million children inside Syria, and 700,000 in neighbouring countries, are out-of-school. In response, UNICEF and partners launched the “No Lost Generation Initiative”, which is committed to restoring learning and providing opportunities to young people.
The report calls on the global community to undertake five critical steps to protect a vital generation of children.
- End violations of children’s rights;
- Lift sieges and improve humanitarian access inside Syria;
- Secure US$ 1.4 billion in 2016 to provide children with learning opportunities;
- Restore children’s dignity and strengthen their psychological wellbeing; and
- Turn funding pledges into commitments. UNICEF has received only six per cent of the funding required in 2016 to support Syrian children both inside the country and those living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
UNICEF’s response to the Syria crisis
In 2015 alone, UNICEF and a large network of local and international partners were able to deliver assistance to millions of children in need inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.
Inside Syria, where UNICEF has close to 200 staff, UNICEF has ensured that:
- More than 7.9 million people were provided with access to safe water
- Two rounds of polio vaccination campaigns reached more than 2.9 million children. No new polio cases have been reported in the country since January 2014.
- More than one million children, including in hard to reach areas, accessed learning material through the printing and distribution of text books. This was done at a time when printing was no longer possible locally because of damage to infrastructure.
- Nearly 841,000 children received psychological support.
In neighbouring countries—Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey—UNICEF and partners:
- Provided more than 2.5 million people with safe drinking and domestic water.
- Vaccinated more than 16 million children under five against polio.
- Helped more than 630,000 refugee children enroll in formal education.
- Provided more than 377,000 children with psychosocial support services
- Provided around 184,000 children under five with multi-micronutrient supplements including Vitamin A.
- Reached more than 139,000 children with winter supplies including blankets, clothes, heating supplies, cash and vouchers.
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 updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.