UNICEF calls it “another shameful milestone”
NEW YORK (August 23, 2013) – One million Syrian children have now been forced to flee their homeland as Syria’s civil war continues to rage.
“This one millionth child refugee is not just another number,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we can only begin to comprehend.”
“We must all share the shame because while we work to alleviate the suffering of those affected by this crisis, the global community has failed in its responsibility to this child,” said Lake. “We should stop and ask ourselves how, in all conscience, we can continue to fail the children of Syria.”
“What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and wellbeing of a generation of innocents,” said António Guterres, UNHCR High Commissioner. “The youth of Syria are losing their homes, their family members and their futures. Even after they have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatized, depressed and in need of a reason for hope.”
Children make up half of all refugees from the Syrian conflict, according to UNICEF and UNHCR. The latest figures show that more than 740,000 Syrian refugees are under the age of 11. Most have arrived in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Increasingly, Syrians are fleeing to North Africa and Europe.
Inside Syria, some 7,000 children have been killed during the conflict, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. UNHCR and UNICEF estimate that more than two million children have been internally displaced within Syria.
The physical upheaval, fear, stress and trauma experienced by so many children account for just part of the human crisis. Both agencies also highlight the threats to refugees from child labor, early marriage and the potential for sexual exploitation and trafficking. More than 3,500 children in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have crossed Syria’s borders either unaccompanied or separated from their families.
UNHCR and UNICEF have mobilized aid for millions of affected children and families in what is now the largest humanitarian operation in history.
For example, more than 1.3 million children in countries neighboring Syria have been vaccinated against measles this year with the support of UNICEF and its partners. Nearly 167,000 refugee children have received counseling and other psychological care, more than 118,000 children have been able to maintain their education inside and out of formal schools, and more than 222,000 people have been provided with water supplies.
UNHCR has registered all one million refugee children, giving them an identity. The agency helps babies born in exile get birth certificates, preventing them from becoming stateless. UNHCR also ensures that all refugee families and children live in some form of safe shelter.
More funding is urgently needed for education, health care and other services for children affected by the crisis. The Syria Regional Refugee Response plan, which calls for $3 billion dollars to address the acute needs of refugees until December 2013, is only 38 percent funded.
But more funds are only part of the response needed to address the humanitarian impact of the Syrian crisis. Parties to the conflict must stop targeting civilians and cease recruitment of children. Children and their families must be safe to leave Syria, and borders must remain open so they can cross to safety.
Those who fail to meet these obligations under international humanitarian law should be held fully accountable for their actions, say the two agencies.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF's relief efforts, 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 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 more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 646.428.5010, firstname.lastname@example.org