Today marks eight years since the war in Syria began; one of the world’s most violent and deadly conflicts for children.
Eight years of war has resulted in 111,330 civilian deaths, including more than 20,000 children, and some 4 million children being born who know nothing but war.
One third of schools in Syria have been destroyed or damaged, or are occupied by fighters, and an estimated 2 million children are not in school.
Rates of child marriage in Syria have risen among the refugee population, from 12% in 2011 to 32% in 2014 as consequence of this protracted conflict.
Save the Children Australia CEO, Paul Ronalds reflected that the war in Syria had now lasted longer than World War II and the longer the conflict lasted, the greater the indirect harm caused as essential services cease to function.
“For eight years, Save the Children has been in Syria and the region supporting children caught up in a war waged by adults,” said Paul Ronalds.
“It is a tragedy that around 4 million children born since 2011 know nothing but war, displacement and uncertainty.”
“The only thing that would compound the tragedy of the Syrian war further would be for us to not help secure a better future for the generation of children who have already lost so much.”
Save the Children has called for the Australian Government to commit more in humanitarian aid at the third Supporting Syria and the Region pledging conference being held in Brussels this week.
“We call on the Australian Government to commit additional funding to the Syrian response, to help ease this unimaginable scale of suffering, particularly for children,” said Mr Ronalds.
“For the millions of Syrians displaced by war, many living as refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, the aid provided by Australia is life sustaining.”
The United Nations has said USD 8 billion in humanitarian aid is urgently needed to assist those trapped in Syria as well as the neighboring nations who continue to shoulder the lion’s share of the refugee influx.
The need has become increasingly urgent with thousands, mostly women and children, fleeing the fighting in the final ISIS-held enclave in north-eastern Syria, stretching the capacity of aid efforts at three refugee camps in the area to breaking point.
The children, from families with perceived or actual associations with ISIS, are separated from the rest of the population in the camps, which affects their ability to obtain access to aid and services.
Save the Children has called for the Australian Government to accept responsibility for its citizens and repatriate children for rehabilitation and reintegration.
“Children should not be further punished for the sins of their parents when their suffering has already been so immense,” said Mr Ronalds.
“100 years ago, Save the Children was founded by a woman determined to help the innocent children of World War I.”
“Today, we continue that work in her honor as we seek to ensure Australian children trapped in Syria are not punished for the crimes of their parents.”
“It is within the Australian Government’s power to bring these children home and we urge them to do so immediately.”
There are now estimated to be at least 3,580 children of foreign nationalities living in three camps for displaced people in North-East Syria.
Throughout 2019, it’s Centenary year, Save the Children will be calling on the Australian Government to do more to Stop the War on Children, including in Syria and the region.
For interviews, call Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917