11th March 2019
2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
Ahead of high-level pledging conference and in run-up to 8-year-mark of conflict, UNICEF calls for protection of Syrian children and durable solutions to their plight
Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore
Multimedia materials available here.
NEW YORK/BRUSSELS/AMMAN, 11 March 2019 – “Today there exists an alarming misconception that the conflict in Syria is drawing quickly to a close – it is not. Children in parts of the country remain in as much danger as at any other time during the eight-year conflict.
“In 2018 alone, 1,106 children were killed in the fighting – the highest ever number of children killed in a single year since the start of the war. These are only the numbers that the UN has been able to verify, which means the true figures are likely much higher.
“Mine contamination is now the leading cause of child casualties across the country, with unexploded ordnance accounting for 434 deaths and injuries last year.
“The year 2018 also saw 262 attacks against education and health facilities, also a record high.
“I am particularly concerned about the situation in Idlibin northwestern Syria where an intensification of violence has reportedly killed 59 children in the past few weeks alone.
“Children and families in no man’s lands continue to live in limbo. The situation of families in Rukban, near the Jordanian border, continues to be desperate, with limited access to food, water, shelter, health care and education.
“I am also alarmed by the worsening conditions in Al Hol camp in the northeast, now home to over 65,000 people, including an estimated 240 unaccompanied or separated children. Since January this year, nearly 60 children reportedly died while making the 300-kilometre trek from Baghouz to the camp.
“The fate of children of foreign fighters in Syria remains unclear. UNICEF urges member states to take responsibility for children who are their citizens or born to their nationals, and to take measures to prevent children from becoming stateless.
“Meanwhile, neighbouring countries in the region are hosting 2.6 million Syrian refugee children who face their own challenges despite support from host governments, the UN and the international community. Many families cannot send their children to school and, with few income-earning opportunities, are turning to negative coping mechanisms – including child labour and child marriage – to get by.
“As the war enters its ninth year, UNICEF again reminds parties to the conflict and the global community that it is the country’s children who have suffered most and have the most to lose. Each day the conflict continues is another day stolen from their childhood.
“UNICEF continues to work across Syria and in neighbouring countries to help provide children with essential health, education, protection and nutrition services and to help build families’ resilience.
“But this is not enough.
“We renew our call on all parties to the conflict, as well as those who have influence over them, to prioritize the protection of all children, no matter who controls which area and regardless of the alleged affiliations of a child’s family.
“We also renew our call for unconditional, safe access to the families in need and for sustained, voluntary, long-term solutions to those choosing not to return.
“On the eve of the pledging conference in Brussels, we also urge donors to maintain their generosity towards the children of Syria and neighbouring countries. Predictable, unrestricted, multi-year funding is required to meet the immediate and longer term needs of children and their families inside Syria and across the region.”
Note to editors:
• Yemen is one of the worst places to be a child. Over 11 million children depend on humanitarian assistance just to survive.
• Acute malnutrition is rife, affecting almost 2 million children – among them nearly 360,000 severely acutely malnourished children fighting to stay alive.
• UNICEF continues to work around the clock across all of Yemen to deliver vital assistance to children. A recent nationwide UNICEF-supported measles and rubella vaccination campaign protected almost 12 million children against measles and rubella in 318 districts.
• Almost 1.5 million of Yemen’s poorest, most vulnerable families now receive an emergency cash transfer with support from UNICEF and the World Bank.
For more information, please contact:
Alexandra Murdoch, 0207 375 6179, AlexandraM@unicef.org.uk
Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, firstname.lastname@example.org
Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting 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 to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK.
For more information please visit unicef.org.uk