Picture used for illustrative purpose only.
While the world attention remains focussed on the fight against COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Syria marked a grim milestone this weekend with the beginning of the tenth year of brutal war.
UN figures revealing that nearly 5 million children have known nothing but war distinctly highlight the damaging effect of the deepening tragedy, which is compounded by the fact that there seems to be no end to the war itself as yet.
Around 4.8 million children have been born in Syria since the conflict began nine years ago, with an additional million born as refugees in neighbouring countries, according to the UN Children’s Fund, Unicef.
“The war in Syria marks yet another shameful milestone,” as Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore, points out.
Millions of children are entering their second decade of life surrounded by war, violence, death and displacement. The need for peace has never been more pressing.
Children have been bearing the brunt of the conflict.
Statistics reveal the extent of the suffering faced by hapless children, who should be studying in the schools or playing in the gardens.
According to verified UN data from 2014, when official monitoring began, until the end of last year:
* More than 9,000 children were killed or injured in the conflict.
* Close to 5,000 children – some as young as seven – were recruited into the fighting.
* Nearly 1,000 education and medical facilities came under attack.
Unicef has also laid out the figures that reveal Syria’s continuing child and healthcare crisis:
Two in five schools cannot be used because they are destroyed, damaged, sheltering displaced families or being used for military purposes; over half of all health facilities are non-functional; more than 2.8 million children are out of school inside Syria and in neighbouring countries; over two-thirds of children with physical or mental disabilities require specialised services that are unavailable in their area.
The economic situation is deteriorating so fast that ordinary Syrians struggle keep up with prices that rise even over the course of a day.
The currency is collapsing: it now takes 500 syrian pounds to get a dollar, 20 times the pre-2011 amount.
The war has left cities and villages in ruins and displaced more than 11 million people internally and abroad, with many seeking refuge in neighbouring and other countries.
With over one million Syrian children orphaned since the fighting began, a huge question mark remains about their future.
The number of people in Syria who are food insecure is said to have increased to 7.9 million people, a 22 per cent rise in just one year.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly highlighted the need for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
“The conflict in Syria is entering its tenth year. A decade of fighting has brought nothing but ruin and misery. And civilians are paying the gravest price. There is no military solution. Now it is the time to give diplomacy a chance to work,” as he mentioned in a message posted on his Twitter account.
The conflict in Syria has exacted an unconscionable human cost and caused a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions.
The catastrophic suffering endured by the Syrian people for so many years should end. The warring parties should stop hitting schools and hospitals and stop killing or maiming helpless children.
The international community should do everything it can to help fulfil the Syrians’ legitimate aspirations of peace, progress and prosperity.
Vladimir Voronkov told an informal meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday that “the horrific situation of the children in Al Hol (camp) is one of the most pressing issues in the world today.”
With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of refugee children have become even more acute. Meeting those needs is key to safeguarding both their wellbeing today and future potential, as top UN officials rightly point out.
Any human being with conscience would be rattled to hear about the plight of a generation of Syrian children who have been forced to face harrowing times much beyond words could explain.
A photographer collaborating with AFP said he saw a man leaving the site of the blast, carrying the bloody corpse of a young girl, her hair streaked with blood. A rescue worker carried the dust covered body of a second child, he added.
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