23 December 2013

One Syrian baby is born a refugee roughly every hour, joining the nearly six million Syrian children already in desperate need of aid as harsh winter weather batters the region.

In crowded and unhygienic conditions in refugee camps and settlements, where temperatures can drop as low as minus six degrees, babies are at high risk of diseases such as pneumonia.

"Too many Syrian newborns are spending their crucial first months living in terrible conditions that no child should ever have to experience," said UNICEF UK's Jon Sparkes.

"Countless babies are at increased risk of infections, disease and even death and we need to act urgently to reach and protect more children in desperate need."

Hundreds of thousands of children have missed out on routine immunisations for more than two years and are now vulnerable to diseases like measles and polio. Syria has been hit with its first outbreak of polio in 14 years. 

"We urgently need to be able to reach every child in Syria and across the region before we lose an entire generation forever," said Jon Sparkes. "UNICEF is working around the clock, providing supplies like blankets, warm clothes and medicine to get children through the bitter winter.

"We're also vaccinating children against potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, and running specialist outreach programmes to reach refugee babies with basic health care.

"However, the situation is at breaking point and needs are great."

UNICEF is also increasingly concerned about the long-term consequences of Syrian newborns not being officially registered at birth. In the chaos inside Syria and in refugee camps and settlements, babies are often not getting birth certificates - leaving them without an official existence and more vulnerable to abuses like trafficking and child marriage. Out of the 781 Syrian babies born in Lebanon in October 2013, only 23% have birth certificates.

Right now, our resources are at breaking point. We desperately need more funding to ensure that we can reach every child in the region that needs us.

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Seven-month-old Amal was born into the Syrian crisis, in a temporary shelter. © UNICEF/Razan Rashidi
Seven-month-old Amal was born into the Syrian crisis, in a temporary shelter.© UNICEF/Razan Rashidi