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Violence against Syria’s children ‘at its worst’ in 2016

Violence against Syria’s children ‘at its worst’ in 2016

At least 652 children were killed – a 20 per cent increase from 2015 – making 2016 the worst year for Syria’s children

Violence against children in war-ravaged Syria was at its worst in 2016, with at least 652 children killed, the UN’s children’s agency said on Monday as the conflict nears its seventh year.

UNICEF said at least 255 children were killed in or near schools last year and 1.7 million youngsters are out of school. One of every three schools in Syria is unusable, some because armed groups occupy them. An additional 2.3 million Syrian children are refugees elsewhere in the Middle East.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least 652 children were killed last year – a 20 per cent increase compared to 2015 – 255 among them were killed in or near a school. Maiming and recruitment of children also rose sharply as violence across the country saw a drastic escalation.

  • At least 652 children were killed – a 20 per cent increase from 2015 – making 2016 the worst year for Syria’s children since the formal verification of child casualties began in 2014.
  • 255 children were killed in or near a school.
  • More than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, more than double the number recruited in 2015. Children are being used and recruited to fight directly on the frontlines and are increasingly taking part in combat roles, including in extreme cases as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.
  • There were at least 338 attacks against hospitals and medical personnel.

 “The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,” said the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, in a news release announcing the study Hitting Rock Bottom – How 2016 became the worst year for Syria’s children.

“Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future,” he added.

The most vulnerable among Syria’s children are the 2.8 million in hard-to-reach areas, including 280,000 children living under siege, almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid.

“Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult,” read the release.

The UNICEF report warns that for Syria’s young generation, coping mechanisms and medical care are eroding quickly, driving children into child labour, early marriage and combat. Dozens of children are also dying from preventable diseases.

A report released a week ago by the international charity Save the Children said Syrian youngsters are showing signs of “toxic stress” that can lead to lifelong health problems, struggles with addiction and mental disorders lasting into adulthood.

The use of child soldiers is on the rise in Syria, UNICEF also said. At least 851 children were recruited by armed factions last year — more than twice compared to the year before.

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