How to Help Syria and its Children
Children in Syria need your help to survive the winter. Send them food, water and health care 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.
Children are dying before our eyes. This can be stopped. It needs to stop now. — UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore
The situation in Rukban, a hard-to-reach camp around 300 kilometres 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.
Because there is no sewage system in Rukban, people dispose of their waste in pits they’ve dug under their homes, creating unsanitary living conditions ripe for diseases that could easily overwhelm the camp’s few poorly supplied health clinics. 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.
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.
“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 to the women and children of Rukban. 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.
Nearly eight years since the conflict began, 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 violations of children's rights and of international humanitarian law are ongoing as the conflict continues to overwhelm areas where civilians live.
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.
The flight from the violence has exposed children to other deadly threats. Since winter began, freezing temperatures across the Middle East and North Africa have posed new dangers to children and families who are forced to shelter in flimsy tents or remote areas where humanitarian assistance is limited.
“Harsh living conditions in Rukban are increasingly putting children’s lives at risk," said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa in mid January of the camp where 80 percent of the population are women and children. "In just one month, at least eight children — most of them under four months and the youngest only one-hour-old — have died."
Meanwhile, in the east, heavy violence in the Hajin area of Deir-Ez-Zor has displaced an estimated 10,000 people since December.
"Families seeking safety face difficulties leaving the conflict zone and wait in the cold for days without shelter or basic supplies," Cappelaere continued.
Over the past month, 29 children and infants have died of exposure on their families' flight from conflict or at their ultimate destination, a camp in the Hasakah region. Mostly women and children, the displaced often arrive with no belongings, some even barefoot. With not enough tents to go around, families are forced to sleep outside, many with no blankets.
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. Many children have spent several bitter winters living in makeshift shelters.
For 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 and the disease outbreaks that have accompanied it 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.