Geneva Palais briefing note on the situation of children in northeast Syria

This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

15 October 2019
Syria. Children stand on the back of a truck.

GENEVA, 15 October 2019 - "As indicated in the statement issued by our Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, last night, we estimate that nearly 70,000 children have been displaced since hostilities in northeast Syria escalated nearly a week ago. Most have sought shelter with relatives, friends and host communities.

"As of now, 33 collective shelters – mostly schools and unfinished buildings – have been identified across Al-Hasakeh city, Raqqa city and Tal Tamer. They are hosting nearly 3,400 people, but the numbers fluctuate quickly as most people do not stay long. UNICEF is providing emergency assistance to families as they arrive at the shelters.

"UNICEF can confirm the deaths of at least 4 children, and the injuries of 9, in northeast Syria. Seven children have reportedly been killed in Turkey.

"At least 170,000 children could require humanitarian assistance due to the violence.

"The A'louk water station that supplies water to 400,000 people in Al-Hasakeh, remains out of service. Technical repair teams were able to assess the water station and make some repairs yesterday, but damage to the electricity lines may not be immediately reparable. An alternative water supply, from the Al Himme water pumping station, can only meet about 30 per cent of needs in Al-Hasakeh and there are shallow wells that people are using now, but the water is not safe, so it is critical that the A'louk water pumping station gets back online. UNICEF will be providing fuel for back-up generators, and we are trucking water to the shelters now taking in displaced people.

"At least one school in Tal Abiad has also been attacked.

"In Ras Al-Ain, schools, clinics and markets have been closed since 9 October. In Tal Abiad town, water and electricity remain unavailable and the national hospital has been closed since 11 October. Our partners in Ras al-Ain and Tal Abiad have had to stop most of their work, as many of their staff and volunteers are among the displaced population.

"Early on 13 October, there were reports of shelling near Ein Issa camp. The camp hosts some 13,000 IDPs including approximately 8,000 children. An unspecified number of people from the camp may have fled. Twenty-seven unaccompanied children between 2 and 14 years old, including 24 of foreign nationalities, were safely evacuated to Ar-Raqqa city. A UNICEF medical mobile team will be visiting them today.

"On October 11, around 5,000 people including approximately 3,100 children started evacuating Mabruka camp due to security concerns. As of 13 October, there were 15 households, mainly women and children, who have not been able to safely leave the camp.

"Finally, in Al-Hol camp, which has about 64,000 children and women, UNICEF and partners continue water trucking efforts at a rate of 300m3 per day. Despite constrained access due to the evolving situation, UNICEF’s health and nutrition partner in Al-Hol has been able to reach women and children in two sections of the camp with nutritional and health services."

"As violence continues to escalate, UNICEF renews its calls on all parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to protect children at all times. Those fighting in the northeast and elsewhere in Syria must protect civilian infrastructure and not use it for military gains.

During the course of the offensive or defending against it, all parties should take action to :

  • Avoid attacking areas where civilians, including children, may be found
  • Prevent children from being separated from their caregivers
  • Allow unimpeded access by independent humanitarian organizations to deliver life-saving assistance to children and families affected by the conflict

​"In the face of the deteriorating situation UNICEF calls on member states to repatriate their nationals, including children, as soon as possible so that they can be protected from harm."

Media contacts

Marixie Mercado
Tel: +41 79 559 7172
Joe English
Tel: +1 917 893 0692


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