UNICEF steps up its response to children affected by the crisis in Syria
Toronto, 23 March 2012 — As the impact of the ongoing crisis in Syria ripples across the region, UNICEF has unveiled plans to address the urgent health, educational and other needs of tens of thousands of Syrian children being sheltered in surrounding countries.
The plans were announced in Geneva at the launch of a broader six-month United Nations response plan coordinated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Scarred by crisis
Speaking at the launch event, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Maria Calivis pointed out that children had not been spared the violence sweeping Syria over the past year.
The UN says that at least 500 Syrian children have been killed in the violence thus far, while hundreds more have been injured, put in detention or abused. Schools have closed and health centres have shut down or become too dangerous for families to reach.
“Every day, heart-wrenching images and stories of children in Syria flash across our television screens,” said Ms. Calivis. “There can be little doubt that the vast majority of Syria’s children will be scarred by this crisis – whether physically or psychologically.”
Of the 30,000 registered refugees who have fled Syria for Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, a large proportion are women and children.
In order to meet the critical needs of this growing population (and in addition to its work on behalf of children inside Syria itself), UNICEF is mobilizing its resources, with particular focus on education, child protection, and water and sanitation.
“We are building on our existing network of governmental and NGO partners to reach not only the families living in camps but those who are being hosted in local communities,” said Ms. Calivis.
Care for displaced children
One key element is ensuring that Syrian children can continue their schooling in the countries that are hosting them. Additional educational, recreational and cultural activities are being organized, while children suffering psychosocial distress will receive the support they need.
UNICEF and its partners will set up child-friendly spaces – in schools and in other settings – designed to allow teachers, caregivers and social workers the opportunity to identify children needing additional psychosocial care, and to provide the venue for a range of activities to help children come to terms with their experiences.
Assessments of water and sanitation conditions will be carried out in areas sheltering displaced Syrians, and hygiene kits will be provided to newly arrived families. ‘Better parenting’ programmes will be organized to help displaced families ensure that the health and nutrition needs of young children are properly met.
To carry out these activities, UNICEF is appealing for $7.4 million in funding.
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause. UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.