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5.5 million Syrian children are paying the price for war

The number of children affected by the Syrian conflict has doubled in the past year to 5.5 million.

As the hostilities enter their fourth year, a UNICEF report has revealed the horrific scale of the suffering endured by children under siege in Syria or who have fled with their families to neighbouring countries.

It was published as a Save The Children report revealed the Syrian health system is on the brink of collapse.

The UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) report said an estimated one million children are in hard-to-reach areas that it and other aid agencies cannot reach on a regular basis.

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

“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.”

The report – Under Siege: the devastating impact on children of three years of conflict in Syria – reveals some shocking statistics:

  • Two million children are in need of psychological support or treatment
  • 1.2 million children are refugees living in camps and other communities in neighbouring countries
  • One in 10 refugee children are working
  • One in five Syrian girls in Jordan are being forced into early marriage

The report calls for major steps to be taken, including investment in the education of Syria’s children to prevent them becoming a lost generation.

It also highlights some of the haunting human stories – including four-year-old Adnan, whose face was scarred when his house was bombed.

His family fled to Lebanon and Adnan’s mother said: ““He cries all night. He is scared of everything and is afraid when we leave him, even for a second.”

The UNICEF report has appealed to the international community to increase their support for the victims of the conflict.

Its six-step appeal is to end the violence now, grant immediate access to the under-reached one million children inside Syria, protect them from exploitation and harm, invest in their education, provide them with psychological care, and support host communities and governments to ease the social and economic impact of the conflict on families.

The Save The Children report – Syria: A Devastating Toll – said millions of children have been exposed to potentially deadly diseases such as polio and measles, which could be prevented with vaccinations and basic medical equipment. It also revealed newborn babies are dying in hospital incubators during power outages.

Regional director Roger Hearn said: “This humanitarian crisis has fast become a health crisis.

“The desperate measures to which medical personnel are resorting to keep children alive are increasingly harrowing.”

The Save The Children report said children brought into hospitals with injuries and burns often have their limbs amputated to avoid them bleeding to death.