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The loss of childhood in Syria

Two major new reports published on the second anniversary of the conflict in Syria warn of the suffering being endured by over two million children, both inside and outside the country.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, visiting a refugee camp in Jordan this week, echoed the sentiments of the reports and described the situation of displaced Syrian families as “heartbreaking”.

Over a million Syrians have now been registered as refugees by the United Nations, over half of them children. They are now living in camps in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Prince Charles spoke of the generosity being shown towards the refugees and the wonderful support being given by agencies to help governments cope with the influx. However, the prince expressed his concern about the plight of children who had lost parents and those who had suffered from “horrendous experiences”.

In its ‘Childhood Under Fire’ report, Save the Children highlights how children inside Syria are increasingly being put directly in harm’s way, with reports that youngsters as young as eight are being used as human shields. Many have also suffered mental anguish from the loss of family. Research among youngsters by a Turkish university found that three in four had experienced the death of a loved one due to the conflict.

Of around 2 million internally displaced people, an estimated 80,000 are sleeping in caves, parks or barns, exposing children to unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Given the difficult living conditions, mothers and newborns are particularly at risk. And with widespread food shortages, the proportion of mothers able to breastfeed is dropping. This is adding to increasing levels of malnutrition among children.

In its report, ‘Syria’s Children: A lost generation’, the UN’s child agency UNICEF says that along with its partners, the organisation is committed to trying to minimize the impact of the crises on children by providing support in areas such as health, nutrition, immunisation, water and sanitation. For example, over the coming months, it aims to deliver water purifying supplies for 10 million people and immunisation for up to 3 million children against polio and measles. Mobile clinics will also address other health issues across Syria. But UNICEF warns that to meet the growing needs, urgent funding has to be made available.

SOS Children is active in supporting families inside Syria. Find out more information about SOS Children's Emergency Relief Programme in Syria.

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