A record number of 652 children were killed in Syria last year, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said ahead of the sixth anniversary of the revolution in Syria. More than a third of these children were killed in or near a school.
The figure of 652 is up by 20 percent from 2015, UNICEF said. More than 850 children were also recruited to fight – more than double the number in 2015.
“The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis,” the agency’s regional director Geert Cappelaere said in a statement from Homs in Syria.
“Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future,” UNICEF said.
The figures, collected since 2014, only represent formally verified casualties, meaning the true toll could be higher.
UNICEF also said there were at least 338 attacks against hospitals and medical personnel last year.
“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,” UNICEF 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.
After six years of war by the Assad regime on the Syrian people, nearly 6 million children now depend on humanitarian assistance, a twelve-fold increase from 2012. Millions of children have been displaced, some up to seven times. Over 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
“Inside Syria and across its borders, coping mechanisms are eroding, and families are taking extreme measures just to survive, often pushing children into early marriage and child labour. In more than two thirds of households, children are working to support their families, some in extremely harsh conditions unfit even for adults,” UNICEF said. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)