How to Help Syria and its Children

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Children in Syria need your help to survive — send them food, water and healthcare now

The brutal civil war that began in 2011 has had a devastating effect on the nation's children. Born in one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child, millions of Syrian children have grown up in the shadow of violence, which has displaced far too many families to remote areas where winter and lack of resources make daily life a desperate struggle.

The situation in Rukban, a hard-to-reach camp around 300 kilometers from the capital, Damascus, is especially dire. The majority of the displaced are women and children who’ve been struggling to hang on amidst winter’s cold.

Reports of children wading barefoot through icy puddles and people forced to sell their belongings for food and water surfaced with the arrival of a long-awaited United Nations aid convoy in early February.  There are no doctors in Rukban, where, since December of last year, at least eight children, most of them newborns, have died due to the freezing temperatures and lack of medical care.


"The winter months have been incredibly harsh for mothers and children in Rukban. Their health is weakened from poor nutrition and the extremely difficult living conditions,” said UNICEF Representative in Syria, Fran Equiza. “With no access to adequate medical facilities and no qualified medical personnel, a simple complication during childbirth can be fatal for mothers or their babies.”

While the arrival of the aid convoy, the largest ever to enter Syria, was a welcome step, it provides only temporary relief. Meanwhile, in other parts of Syria, the humanitarian aid children can't survive without, including water, health, nutrition and school supplies, is by no means assured. UNICEF has called upon all parties to the conflict to allow aid to reach children no matter who controls the area where they live.

At one camp for the displaced, children wade barefoot through icy puddles and families sell their belongings for food so they won't go hungry.

After eight years of conflict, 13.1 million people require humanitarian assistance, among them the 5.6 million children who have seen violence destroy places that should be safe: schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and their own homes. Grave, sometimes lethal, violations of children's rights and of international humanitarian law are ongoing as the conflict continues to overwhelm areas where civilians live.

Saja was 12 when she lost her leg in a bomb attack in Eastern Aleppo. Her brother was killed in another attack. Above, she reads from an essay she wrote about her dream of peace for Syria: "I hope that all children who have lost their right to learn will go back to school, especially those who have lost their parents."

Between January and September of last year, the United Nations verified the killing of 870 children – the highest number ever in the first nine months of any year since 2011. In November, 30 children were killed in the eastern village of Al Shafa. Since December, heavy violence in the Hajin area of Deir-Ez-Zor has displaced an estimated 10,000 people.

According to the World Health Organization, from December through January, 29 children and infants died of exposure as their families fled conflict for a camp in the northeast. Mostly women and children, the displaced arrived with no belongings, some even barefoot. With not enough tents to go around, families are forced to sleep outside, many with no blankets. Winter storms that swept across the Middle East have made life for refugees in neighboring countries just as harsh.

Without reliable and accessible healthcare, protection and shelter, more children will die in Rukban, Deir-Ez-Zor and elsewhere in Syria. History will judge us for these entirely avoidable deaths. — Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

How many Syrian refugees are there?

The war in Syria has created the world's largest displacement crisis, with almost 5.7 million registered refugees, including more than 2.5 million Syrian children now living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some Syrian children have resettled with their families even farther way. 

For all these children, what's at stake isn't politics. It's their future. Having already lost their homes, schools and communities, they want what any child needs to forge a brighter tomorrow: the chance to live with their families in peace, safety and good health and the opportunity to learn and grow.

How to help Syria and its children

Years of conflict have denied children access to basic services. National immunization has declined from 90 percent coverage in 2010 to 70 percent in 2017. Some 14.6 million people require access to safe water. More than 1.75 million Syrian children are out of school; 1.35 million are at risk of dropping out. More than 3 million children require nutritional support, including the 20,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF has been on the ground since the conflict began, leading the way to provide water, nutrition, education and protection to families and children while collaborating closely with partners to meet all the needs of the most vulnerable children. This year UNICEF will continue providing immediate lifesaving support to children affected by the crisis while building upon the work in 2018 to ...

  • Vaccinate more than 3.5 million children under 5 against polio 
  • Provide nearly 3 million people with sustained access to safe water and over 1 million people with sanitation
  • Screen more than 1 million women and children for malnutrition and treat more than 6,000 children under 5 for severe acute malnutrition
  • Reach over 1.8 million children with formal education
  • Outfit over 510,000 children, including 232,000 of them in remote areas or conflict zones, with warm winter clothes and blankets

The situation for children in Syria is dire. Without nutrition, health care, clean water, protection and education, they can't possibly survive. Help UNICEF continue to support each and every child.

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