NEW YORK (September 23, 2013) - The plight of civilians trapped by the conflict inside Syria is becoming increasingly desperate. More efforts are needed now to enable humanitarian access, which will protect thousands of children’s lives, said UNICEF.
As world leaders gather for the 68th UN General Assembly in New York, UNICEF warned that the spiraling conflict means children continue to be cut off from urgently-needed assistance, including vaccinations, safe drinking water, shelter, education and psychological support.
“As fighting continues, some areas have been under siege for months on end, leaving families struggling to survive,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Syria’s children have suffered too much, for too long, and will continue to bear the consequences of this crisis for many years to come.”
“We must be able to reach these children, urgently and without restrictions—and the various parties to the conflict can make that happen by immediately allowing humanitarian workers to reach them with life-saving assistance,” he said.
One example of how unimpeded access could save lives, said Lake, is the forthcoming Child Health Day vaccination campaign that aims to protect children inside Syria from vaccine-preventable diseases. The campaign focuses on the 700,000 children who have not been reached through the most recent immunization activities.
Children need access to other critical services such as health and education, noted UNICEF. Schools and health facilities should not be targeted in fighting, but rather recognized as “zones of peace” where women and children can seek assistance and support, said Lake.
For most of this year, UNICEF and its partners have faced severe challenges in reaching hundreds of thousands of children in Aleppo, Rural Damascus, major parts of Homs, Deir ez Zour and Rural Dara'a in Syria. Medical supplies, including vaccines, have been held up at checkpoints, and vital work on repairing water pipelines has been delayed.
Unimpeded humanitarian access requires clear commitments by the Syrian government and opposition groups. There are a number of practical ways this can be achieved, including humanitarian pauses in the conflict to permit humanitarian workers safe access and freedom of movement to deliver services and supplies to those in need.
“Humanitarian workers need to be able to safely deliver assistance to the most vulnerable women and children across Syria,” stressed Lake. “This includes enabling them to deliver basic health and sanitation services since even the most critical of these, such as the immunization of young children, are not reaching many affected communities.”
Despite the challenges, UNICEF is working with others to bring critical services to children wherever they are, including behind opposition lines, said Lake. “This year we and our partners have provided 10 million people inside Syria with access to safe drinking water, while over the last two years we have immunized two million children against measles. Right now we are delivering school supplies to enable one million Syrian children to resume learning in the country.”
“But the needs remain immense. To get to those we have still not reached, humanitarian workers have to be able to move freely and safely in all parts of the country and essential services must be protected."
For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts for Syrian children and families, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Text: SYRIA to 864233 to donate $10.
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038
As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.
For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, firstname.lastname@example.org