Childhood Under Fire: The Impact of Two years of Conflict in Syria
Save the Children
13 March 2013
From the Executive Summary:
(…)From the very beginning of the crisis in Syria, children have been its forgotten victims – facing death, trauma and suffering, and deprived of basic humanitarian aid. Save the Children estimates that nearly 2 million children are in need of assistance in Syria. Through Save the Children’s work in Syria and the region, we are witnessing what is happening to children and the misery and fear they are living with every day. The only way to stop their suffering is to bring an end to the war. A larger humanitarian action response is absolutely essential, but we also recognise that, without peace, for children in Syria there will only be more death, and more destruction.(…)
This report shows how the conflict is affecting all aspects of children’s lives. Families are struggling to find a safe place to stay, as nearly 3 million buildings have been damaged or destroyed. The lines of fighting move almost daily, so families often do not know if the place they’ve settled in today will be safe tomorrow. Most displaced families share overcrowded apartments and houses, but an estimated 80,000 internally displaced people are sleeping out in caves, parks or barns.
With more than 5,000 people being killed each month, the killing is touching everyone: a new study by a research team at Bahcesehir University in Turkey found that three in every four Syrian children interviewed had lost a loved one because of the fighting. Children are being killed and maimed too, including by the indiscriminate use of shells, mortars and rockets. In one area of Damascus that was formerly home to almost 2 million people, heavy weapons were used in 247 separate recorded incidents in January 2013 alone.
Children are increasingly being put directly in harm’s way as they are being recruited by armed groups and forces. There have even been reports that children as young as eight have been used as human shields. Conflict is threatening children’s lives in Syria from their first days of life. Mothers and their newborns are at greater risk of complications during childbirth.
Many hospitals and health workers are being deliberately attacked, so people are reluctant to take the risk of going to hospital; across the country, a third of hospitals have been put out of action. This means more births are taking place at home, without a skilled birth attendant. There is also a worrying trend of attacks, mostly by Syrian government forces, on hospitals in contested areas. We have seen how even hospitals that have managed to stay open are finding it difficult to provide a high standard of care, with little or no heating, exhausted doctors, and intermittent electricity supply.(…)
Mills, factories and roads are also being damaged and farmland threatened by shelling. As a result, most parts of the country are experiencing shortages of flour, forcing food prices beyond the reach of the poorest families. Combined with an alarming drop in the proportion of mothers breastfeeding their infants, this is leading to the first signs of increasing levels of child malnutrition in Syria.
It is not just Syrian citizens whose lives are being affected by the war. Non-nationals who were living as refugees in Syria (including large numbers of Iraqis and Palestinians) have limited access to assistance and are becoming ever more vulnerable. Despite the efforts of the United Nations (UN) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), millions of people in desperate need in Syria are not receiving enough humanitarian assistance. Some areas have had very little aid or none at all. Insecurity is one of the biggest constraints: 15 aid workers in Syria have lost their lives in the past two years. Access is another huge obstacle, as control of access routes shifts continually with the fighting. This means that agencies sometimes have to negotiate more than 20 checkpoints for one journey, with each negotiation
taking time; and it only takes one checkpoint to refuse passage for the entire aid delivery to be halted.
There are also few organisations – local or international – with the skills and systems in place in Syria to respond to the massive scale of needs. Some Syrian agencies delivering assistance have strong political affiliations with one side of the conflict, representing a challenge to the principles of humanity and impartiality, which are essential to reach those most in need.
Save the Children is calling on the international community to take urgent action to address some of these challenges so that children and their families can receive the assistance they so desperately need. First and foremost, the UN Security Council must unite behind a plan that will bring about an end to the violence and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches children throughout Syria.
The international community must press urgently and explicitly for parties to the conflict to end the recruitment and use of children in military activities, and cooperate with the UN to ensure that all violations of children’s rights are documented so that those responsible can be held to account.
International donors should quickly turn pledges into funding and deliver assistance on the ground in a way that is needs-based, sustained, flexible, and coordinated. “I wasn’t thinking; I just wanted to protect my children. I didn’t want anything else. I wasn’t even thinking; I just wanted to keep my children safe. (…)
See the full report here.