UNICEF UK Ambassador Eddie Izzard has travelled to Iraq to report on the hidden crisis facing Syrian refugees in the country.
Eddie made the journey to Domiz camp in the North of Iraq – originally designed for 15,000 and now crammed with 45,000 people – with UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organisation and one of the few international humanitarian agencies operating in both Syria and all the neighbouring countries.
He met vast numbers of children and their families who have fled Syria for Iraq, where summer temperatures are now hitting 45 degrees.
The number of people entering the country has tripled over the past six months and it is likely to double again by the end of the year to 350,000.
During his first day in the camp Eddie, who has just become an Ambassador for UNICEF UK after actively supporting and advocating for the children’s charity’s work for the last two years, explained;
“Syrian children across the region have lost everything. I’ve heard refugee children in Iraq tell how they fled horrific violence and how they lost loved ones, their homes and their schools. They arrived here with only their clothes on their back. The plight of refugee children in Iraq has so far been a hidden and unreported crisis, but it desperately needs attention.”
UNICEF says families are in desperate need of support as they struggle to source even basic supplies like clean water. The conditions of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan have hit headlines, but the desperate conditions of Syrian refugees in Iraq is an untold story.
Eddie met one mother, Dala, who fled Syria for Iraq with her two year old son and seven year old daughter, for fear of their safety and having watched their home be destroyed.
“Dala told me how bombings were blighting her region in Syria and security had totally broken down. She no longer felt confident that her children were safe.”
“These children have experienced things that no child should – and now they are being forced to struggle as refugees, rebuilding their lives in a country that most Brits would still remember as a war zone, not a place of safety.”
UNICEF is working to deliver vital aid to Syrian children – including specialist psychological support, safe drinking water and essential vaccinations - as well as getting children back to school.
However, the agency has raised only around a third of the money needed to help the children and families who need their support this year.
mong the children Eddie met was 10 year old Muhammed, who was driven from Damascus by fighting and lived on the streets with his mother and three brothers and sisters before fleeing to Iraq.
He is out of school and does not have enough clean water to drink.
“Children are living in crowded conditions and searing heat under canvas, without the basic necessities they need to stay healthy and continue their education,” explains Eddie.
“UNICEF wants to deliver water to everyone who needs it and get every child into school - but numbers are huge and resources are at breaking point.”
The number of children fleeing Syria for neighbouring countries is continuing to grow, with the number of child refugees soon set to hit 1 million.
“In Iraq, and across the region, the children of Syria urgently need our support,” explains Eddie.
“If we don’t bring in more funds now, Syria’s children are at risk of becoming a lost generation.”
£5 could provide water for a week for a family of seven, so please text the word DONATE to 70099 to give £5 now. To donate online visit www.unicef.org.uk
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