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Children in Syria are losing their past and future, UN says

15 March 2013

by a staff reporter


Destruction: people walk in a street reportedly attacked by Syrian Air Force missiles, in Dedir Al-Zor, on Tuesday

Destruction: people walk in a street reportedly attacked by Syrian Air Force missiles, in Dedir Al-Zor, on Tuesday

AN ENTIRE generation of children in Syria is at risk from disease and harm, as the conflict in the country enters its third year, a report by UNICEF warns.

More than one million people - half of them children - have been forced out of their homes and into makeshift camps across the border in neighbouring countries because of the fighting between rebel forces and President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited a refugee centre in Jordan this week. The centre is home to 1500 refugees.

The report, Syria's Children: A lost generation? says that in areas where fighting is most intense, access to clean water is severely restricted, skin and respiratory diseases are common, and the majority of schools have been destroyed or damaged. In Aleppo, just six per cent of children are in school.

Hospitals have been similarly damaged, and many doctors and nurses have fled the region.

"As millions of children inside Syria and across the region witness their past and their futures disappear amidst the rubble and de- struction of this prolonged conflict, the risk of them becoming a lost generation grows every day," the executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, said.

At the end of last year, UNICEF appealed for $US195 million for Syrian children and their families until June 2013, but only 20 per cent of funds have come in. An estimated two million children remain in Syria.

The chief executive of World Vision, Justin Byworth, has just returned from Syria. He said that funding was "woeful".

"In Lebanon, recently, I met a family with a three-year-old girl who had crossed the border with nothing, and was sleeping rough on a freezing park-bench; and a mother who comforted her two-year-old by telling her the bombs were 'balloons popping'. Many are resorting to drastic measures to cope, including . . . considering marrying off their daughters to ensure their children's own survival."

The President of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman, has called for international action to help his country cope with the influx of refugees from Syria.

UN investigators in Syria said this week that the violence in the country had reached "new heights of destruction". Both sides in the conflict were conducting a "reckless" shelling and aerial bombardment, with no attempts to limit civilian casualties, they said.

The chairman of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, told the UN Human Rights Council: "If the national, regional, and international actors fail to find a solution to the conflict . . . the alternative will be the political, economic, and social destruction of Syria and its society."

The conflict has left more than 70,000 people dead, and two million internally displaced.

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