14 March 2014
UNICEF, Save the Children and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have raised concerns about the future of children affected by Syria’s three-year-long conflict.
According to UNICEF’s new report, since March 2013, the number of children affected by the crisis has more than doubled from 2.3 million to over 5.5 million. The number of children displaced inside Syria has more than tripled from 920,000 to almost 3 million. The UN Agency estimates that there are up to one million children who live under siege and in hard-to-reach areas that humanitarian agencies are unable to access on a regular basis.
Refugee children are exposed to abuse and exploitation and one out of ten refugee children is believed to be working to help their families. According to the report, young girls are being forced into premature marriages to help the family economically or because their families fear for their safety and believe a husband will keep them safe. UNICEF states that one in five Syrian refugee girls now marry early compared to one in eight just a year ago.
According to IOM, sexual exploitation of female refugees is also on the rise. “We hear lots of stories about brokers who take girls from the Syrian community [in Jordan] and do matchmaking for marriage, for local men and men from abroad. And the marriage will be very short term, it could only last 24 hours, just to give a legal cover for sexual exploitation,” states Amira Mohamed from IOM.
A report by Save the Children published this week highlights that pregnant women and children inside Syria are facing huge difficulties as 60% of hospitals and 38% of primary health facilities have been damaged or destroyed, the production of drugs has fallen by 70% and nearly half of Syria’s doctors have fled the country. Aleppo, a city which used to have 2,500 doctors, now only has 36.
The report shows how the country’s shattered health system is forcing health workers to engage in brutal medical practices, including having to amputate children’s limbs because they do not have the right equipment to treat them. Children are also contracting preventable and treatable diseases, and even routine injuries can become life-threatening in these conditions, the organisation states.