UN­PRECE­DENTED SUF­FER­ING FOR KIDS

Cases of vi­o­lence against chil­dren high­est on record last year, says Unicef

New Straits Times - - World -

VI­O­LENCE against chil­dren in war-rav­aged Syria was “at its worst” in 2016, the United Na­tions’s chil­dren’s agency said Mon­day as the con­flict nears its sev­enth year.

Unicef said cases of chil­dren be­ing killed, maimed or re­cruited into armed groups were the “high­est on record” last year.

“The depth of suf­fer­ing is un­prece­dented. Mil­lions of chil­dren in Syria come un­der at­tack on a daily ba­sis, their lives turned up­side down,” said Geert Cap­pelaere, Unicef’s re­gional di­rec­tor.

“Each and ev­ery child is scarred for life with hor­rific con­se­quences on their health, well­be­ing and fu­ture,” he said from the cen­tral Syr­ian city of Homs.

Unicef recorded the vi­o­lent deaths of at least 652 chil­dren last year, a 20 per cent in­crease from 2015, and more than 250 of the vic­tims were killed in­side or near a school.

At least 850 chil­dren were re­cruited to fight in the con­flict, in­clud­ing as ex­e­cu­tion­ers or sui­cide bombers — more than dou­ble the 2015 num­ber.

Syria’ s con­flict erupted in March 2011 with protests against the rule of Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad, but mor­phed into a mul­ti­front war.

More than 320,000 peo­ple have been killed and mil­lions have been forced to flee their homes.

Unicef said 2.3 mil­lion Syr­ian chil­dren were liv­ing as refugees in Turkey, Le­banon, Jor­dan, Egypt and Iraq.

An­other 280,000 lived un­der siege across Syria, with no ac­cess to food or medicine, it said.

To cope with in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult liv­ing con­di­tions, fam­i­lies in­side Syria and in host na­tions have been forced to push their chil­dren into early mar­riages or child labour just to sur­vive.

“There is so much more we can and should do to turn the tide for Syria’s chil­dren,” said Cap­pelaere.

AP PIC

A child look­ing out from an aban­doned petrol sta­tion where he and his fam­ily live in Tel Abiad, Syria.

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