Geneva Palais briefing note: Children in Syria

This is a summary of what was said by Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa– to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

02 March 2018

GENEVA, 2 March 2018 - "Last Saturday, the world gave children in Syria a small glimmer of hope, a ray of light in a place that has become so very dark over the past years.

"The UN Security Council Resolution- unanimously adopted nearly a week ago- created an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children to finally get respite from the brutal and unabated violence they have been living through.

"We all thought this was an excellent window for UNICEF and other partners to deliver urgent and lifesaving assistance to children in need wherever they are inside the country.

"For many mothers and fathers in Syria, they immediately thought this is “survival for my children”,  thinking that their severely malnourished children and those who needed urgent medical assistance could get just that: treatment and aid, a very basic right.

"But as the days went by, these hopes turned into illusions, the windows shut abruptly in our faces.

"Because, for children in Syria, nothing has changed, nothing.

"Violence in fact continued in several places across the country, escalating in some and flaring up in others. Violence is ongoing in Idlib, Afrin, in Deir-ez-Zor, in Damascus, in parts of Aleppo and in East Ghouta with reports of children killed and injured.

"The war on children inside Syria is on and it’s not stopping…. Syria remains one of the most dangerous places to be a child.

"Our teams on the ground in Syria and in neighbouring countries are working round the clock.

"We are ready with life-saving supplies including medicines, nutrition supplements for malnourished children, paediatric and midwifery kits, winter clothes for children, hygiene kits and other basic commodities.

"These supplies are meant to deploy to Afrin, Idlib, East Ghouta, Dera’a and other besieged and hard-to-reach areas – some of which we have not been able to reach for months on end. This is where nearly 2 million children live, mostly deprived of their basic rights and of getting assistance. In each of these areas, UNICEF has multiple partners trying day by day to ensure that children can be children.

"This is in addition to ongoing work that UNICEF continues to do for children in need across Syria where there are 5.3 million children in need of assistance. Some of our work includes the delivery of life saving vaccines for children, providing them safe drinking water, supporting their education and opening learning opportunities, including giving education supplies, refurnishing damaged schools, educate them on the risks of mines and remnants of war, supporting over 500 child friendly spaces.

"The first two months of this year have been especially bloody for children. We have received reports of over 1,000 children who were killed and seriously injured only since the year began. 

"While we are not able to confirm each and every of these reports, it’s a stark reminder that the war on children in Syria has got to stop and has got to stop now.

"And while we focus on the situation inside Syria, let us not forget that Syria’s neighbouring countries have born the brunt of the war. There are over 2.6 million children living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

"Some have never been to Syria, they are war children deprived of their home country. 

"Poverty and dwindling financial means are making it almost impossible for families to get by in these countries.

"In a recent study that UNICEF Jordan conducted, more than 85% of refugees outside the camps- in host communities- live in poverty struggling to meet their basic needs including providing education for their children.
Finally, our call, UNICEF’s call on behalf of millions of Syrian children.

"UNICEF calls -once again- on those fighting on the ground inside Syria and all those who have influence over them to put their arms down and stop the war on children. 

"We call to get approvals and assurances to be able as UNICEF with partners to deliver urgent and lifesaving humanitarian assistance to all children in need, wherever and I stress, wherever they are across Syria. 

"Is our call falling once again on deaf ears? 

"The children of Syria have been waiting for way too long.

"The world has failed the children of Syria so many times.

"The world cannot keep failing Syria’s children, you and I, the international community and those fighting and those with influence cannot keep failing the children of Syria.

"History will judge us all if we do."


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