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Three years in, stakes of humanitarian crisis in Syria continue to rise

OpEd
By Anthony Lake Executive Director of UNICEF and
Ertharin Cousin Executive Director of the World Food Program

26 March 2013 – For too many months, if they survived the night, Syrian children and their families have been waking to day after day of shelling, shooting and fear.

And each day, in Syria and its neighbouring countries, one of the largest humanitarian aid efforts in United Nations' history has been providing a lifeline to millions of people.

But the needs grow daily, with no immediate resolution to the conflict in sight.

As the crisis enters its third year with only a fifth of the funding in place to meet those needs, the terrible truth is that, as surely as each hard day follows each hard night, more people are going to suffer.

The number of refugees in neighbouring countries could soar to 3 million if fighting continues to escalate

As children lose access to safe water and sanitation with the collapse of infrastructure, they face the growing risk of diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea.

Hundreds of thousands of children across the region are no longer attending school. Countless numbers are traumatized by the horrors they have witnessed amidst shelling and shooting.

UN agencies and their partners are doing all we can to help those facing this fear, hunger, disease and suffering. WFP provides food for 1.7 million people every month in Syria and is scaling up to feed over 2 million. UNICEF in Syria is helping 32,000 children cope with trauma, has vaccinated 1.3 million against measles and is scaling up to vaccinate 3 million.

We are not only reaching areas controlled by the government but also delivering some assistance into opposition-held areas — though we need more access. Nearly half of the areas in which WFP is providing food are opposition-held. Some 400,000 of those children immunized against measles by UNICEF and its partners are in opposition-controlled territory.

The neighbouring countries of Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon are bearing the heaviest load in the region through providing more than a million fleeing Syrians sanctuary despite the added financial burden and extra strain on local communities.

This collective human response is based on the central principle that innocent victims of conflict must be reached, whoever and wherever they are. As the International Committee of the Red Cross has said, there are no "good" or "bad" civilians in Syria. And certainly, children are not responsible for the violence even if they are so often its first victims.

UNICEF, WFP and our partners are committed to reaching out further to Syrian civilians as the conflict deepens and spreads — but we do so in the face of enormous challenges.

As we seek to help those both outside Syria and within, the support of the donor community is ever more vital. The stakes have never been higher. An entire generation of Syrian children and their families is at risk of being lost amidst the rubble.

For the people of Syria, and for all whose who share our humanitarian values, such a prospect must not become a reality. We need to help more Syrians wake every morning to a brighter dawn.

This OpEd was published in Thestar.com on 26 March 2013. Read article.


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For further information, please contact:

Indra Kumari Nadchatram,
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
(+6.03) 2095 9157
+6012 292 6872
inadchatram@unicef.org

Sasha Surandran,
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
(+6.03) 2095 9154 ext. 2236
+6012 658 5160
ssurandan@unicef.org

 

 
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