The unrelenting violence, massive population displacement, and damage to infrastructure and essential services caused by the Syrian conflict risk leaving an entire generation of children scarred for life, according to a UNICEF report issued today.
"As millions of children inside Syria and across the region witness their past and their futures disappear amidst the rubble and destruction of this prolonged conflict, the risk of them becoming a lost generation grows every day," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
The report ' marking the two-year point in the Syria crisis ' says that in areas where the fighting is most intense access to water has fallen by two-thirds resulting in increased skin and respiratory diseases, while one in five schools has been destroyed, damaged, or is being used to shelter displaced families. In Aleppo, for example, only 6 per cent of children are currently attending school. Classes that still function are sometimes crammed with as many as 100 children.
Hospitals and health centres have been wrecked and their skilled staff has fled.
Meanwhile children are suffering the trauma of seeing family members and friends killed, while being terrified by the sounds and scenes of conflict.
"We urge all parties to allow unhindered access to children affected by the violence ' wherever they are," said Mr. Lake. "We can only meet the growing needs of this crisis if we get the help we need today."
Since the start of the crisis, the response by UNICEF and its partners has focused on providing drinking water and sanitation, health, education and child protection services to families displaced inside Syria and to refugee populations across the region.
As a result, 4 million people inside the country now have access to safe drinking water, while mobile health teams have helped take measles and polio vaccinations to 1.5 million children. Some 75,000 affected children are enrolled in schools and school clubs where they can catch up on their lost education and rediscover the semblance of a normal childhood.
In Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, UNICEF assists more than 300,000 refugee children with services such as safe water, adequate sanitation, education, specialist care and protection from exploitation and abuse.
However, these efforts are threatened by a critical shortage of funding. In December 2012, UNICEF appealed for US$195 million for life-saving assistance for Syrian children and their families until June 2013. To date, the appeal is less than 20 per cent funded.
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
The two-year report on the impact of the Syrian conflict on children can be downloaded here
WeShare videos related to the Syria crisis can be viewed here
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