Violence against Syria's children 'at its worst' in 2016

  • Violence against Syria's children 'at its worst' in 2016

Violence against Syria's children 'at its worst' in 2016

A record number of children were killed in Syria previous year, more than a third of them in or near a school, the United Nations children's agency says ahead of the sixth anniversary of the war. More than 2.3 million child refugees now live in neighbouring countries Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.

Inside Syria and across its borders, coping mechanisms are eroding, and families are taking extreme measures just to survive, often pushing children into early marriage and child labour.

UNICEF also believes more than 850 children were recruited to take part in hostilities - double the number in 2015 - and were used as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.

"The depth of suffering is unprecedented", said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's Middle East regional chief.

"Luckily, and thanks to the determination of the people of Syria - parents, fathers, mothers, teachers - thanks to the support of host governments, children are able to go back to school, they are able to resume their studies, catch up on what they've lost".

The Unicef report said that at least 255 children were killed in or near schools past year; that about 1.7 million children were not in school; that one in three schools in the country has been destroyed or damaged and that some are being occupied by troops. One in every three schools in Syria is unusable, some because armed groups occupy them. Dozens are also dying from preventable diseases and hunger or stepping on landmines or cluster munitions while playing.

"After six years of war we are at a tipping point, after which the impact on children's formative years and childhood development may be so great that the damage could be permanent and irreversible", said Dr. Marcia Brophy, a senior mental health adviser with Save the Children.

The report indicates that limited access to many parts of the war-torn country have made it hard to address the full scale of children's suffering. And another 280,000 still live under siege across Syria, with no access to basic necessities like food, safe shelter or medicine, the United Nations organisation said.

A total of 5.8 million children in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 2.8 million are located in hard-to-reach areas where movement and the transfer of aid are restricted.

"We join the rest of the global humanitarian community on this milestone of shame to voice outrage at the plight of millions of civilians living in a downward spiral of despair", the organisation added. Millions of children have been displaced, some up to seven times.

It said parties to the conflict continue using siege and starvation as a weapon of war.