Number of Children Suffering more than Doubles in Third Year of Syria Conflict

As the conflict in Syria approaches another somber milestone, more than twice as many children are now affected compared to one year ago, says a new UNICEF report published today. Particularly hard hit are up to a million children who are trapped in areas of Syria that are under siege or that are hard to reach with humanitarian assistance due to continued violence.

NEW YORK (March 10, 2014) – As the conflict in Syria approaches another somber milestone, more than twice as many children are now affected compared to one year ago, says a new UNICEF report published today. Particularly hard hit are up to a million children who are trapped in areas of Syria that are under siege or that are hard to reach with humanitarian assistance due to continued violence.

Under Siege: the devastating impact on children of three years of conflict in Syria focuses on the immense damage caused to the 5.5 million children now affected by the conflict and calls for an immediate end to the violence and increased support for those affected.

The report includes the accounts of children whose lives have been devastated by the three-year-old war and highlights the profound traumas many have experienced.  Children, such as four-year old Adnan, who fled with his family to Lebanon, suffered facial scarring when his home was bombed and still suffers from emotional distress. “He cries all night,” his mother is quoted as saying. “He is scared of everything and is afraid when we leave him, even for a second.”

UNICEF estimates that there are two million children like Adnan in need of psychological support or treatment. 

“For Syria’s children, the past three years have been the longest of their lives. Must they endure another year of suffering?” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

The report warns that the future of 5.5 million children inside Syria and living as refugees in neighboring countries hangs in the balance. Violence, the collapse of health and education services, severe psychological distress, and the worsening economic impact on families, are combining to devastate an entire generation of children.

The report highlights the suffering experienced by children and their families who have been trapped in areas under siege for many months. Cut off from aid, living in rubble and struggling to find food, many Syrian children have been left without protection, medical care or psychological support, and have little or no access to education. In the very worst cases, children and pregnant women have been deliberately wounded or killed by snipers. To view the full report, visit www.unicefusa.org/undersiege.  

Some 1.2 million Syrian children are now refugees living in camps and overwhelmed host communities. They have limited access to clean water, nutritious food and learning opportunities.

The report says that three years into the conflict, Syrian children have been forced to grow up faster than any child should. UNICEF estimates that one in 10 refugee children is now working, and one in every five Syrian refugee girls in Jordan is forced into early marriage. 

The report calls on the global community to undertake six critical steps: 

  • End the cycle of violence in Syria;
  • Grant immediate access to the under-reached one million children inside Syria;
  • Create an environment where children are protected from exploitation and harm;
  • Invest in children’s education;
  • Help children’s inner healing through psychological care and support; and
  • Provide support to host communities and governments to mitigate the social and economic impact of the conflict on families.

“This war has to end so that children can return to their homes to rebuild their lives in safety with their family and friends. This third devastating year for Syrian children must be the last,” said Lake. 

How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Website: www.unicefusa.org/syria
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. 

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About UNICEF

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, smasur@unicefusa.org