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 – reports UNICEF UK.
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.
Pregnant women - of which there are around 200,000 in and around Syria – are also extremely vulnerable.
“Too many Syrian newborns are spending their crucial first months living in terrible conditions that no child should ever have to experience,” says Jon Sparkes, UNICEF UK’s Chief Operating Officer.
“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.”
As food prices soar, families lose income, and disease increases as winter storms flood already unhygienic conditions, an increasing number of children are also at risk of malnutrition.
Inside Syria the picture is also bleak - the number of children dying of malnutrition has gone up by five times, as has the number of children admitted to hospital with severe or acute malnutrition.
As Syria's health system lies in ruin, vulnerable groups like children under five years old and mothers who are breastfeeding, are some of the worst hit.
Hundreds of thousands of children have missed out on routine immunisations for more than two years and are now highly vulnerable to infectious diseases like measles and polio.
Syria has been hit with its first outbreak of polio in 14 years. So far 17 children inside Syria have contracted polio and hundreds of thousands of children are at risk across the region.
“We urgently need to be able to reach every child in Syria and across the region before we lose an entire generation forever,” says Jon Sparkes.
“UNICEF is working around the clock, providing supplies like blankets, warm clothes and medicine to get children through the bitter winter.
“We are also vaccinating children against potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, and running specialist outreach programmes to reach refugee babies with basic health care,” explains Jon Sparkes.
“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 per cent have birth certificates.
As part of the UN’s biggest ever appeal, UNICEF needs £511 million to respond to children’s urgent humanitarian needs both inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt in 2014.
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Notes for editors:
Interviews, Case studies and images
Interviews are available with UNICEF spokespeople in London.
Case studies of refugee babies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, including high resolution images, are available on request. UNICEF also has video of a special outreach programme for newborn babies programme in Northern Iraq.
For further information, please contact:
Claire Blackburn, UNICEF UK, + 44 (0)20 7375 6261 ClaireB@unicef.org.uk
Rose Foley, UNICEF UK, + 44 (0)20 7375 6077 / Mobile: + 44 (0)7964 296 431 email@example.com
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit unicef.org.uk