‘How can we continue to fail the children of Syria’

‘How can we continue to fail the children of Syria’ Staff Reporter / 24 August 2013 As the Syrian war enters its third year, the number of Syrian children forced to flee their homeland as refugees has hit one million. The refugee diaspora Syrian refugees are crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan in huge numbers, with more than 42,300 passing through the Peshkabour border crossing since it reopened recently. Teams from the international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders have set up health posts on both sides of the border, providing medical consultations and distributing water to refugees waiting to be transferred to five transit camps. “The refugees report having fled Syria from a variety of locations after hearing that the border had reopened after being closed for several months,” said MSF’s Dohuk head of mission Paul Yon. On the Iraqi side of the border, MSF teams have provided more than 200 general healthcare consultations to refugees waiting to be transferred. “We haven’t identified any critical health concerns so far. The majority of patients are children, pregnant women and mothers who are suffering from moderate dehydration due to the long distances they’ve had to walk or the long waiting time before crossing the border. We are also seeing a lot of cases of asthma. The number of consultations is increasing daily,” said Yon. MSF teams have been working in the Domiz refugee camp in Dohuk, home to 42,000 Syrian refugees, since last May. It plans to assess the needs of some 70,000 refugees who have settled in the city of Dohuk. news@khaleejtimes.com According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), children make up half of all refugees from the Syria conflict. Latest figures show that some 740,000 Syrian child refugees are under the age of 11, while the organisations estimate that more than two million children have been internally displaced within Syria. The UAE has launched various campaigns to provide aid to the victims of the war. In June, Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Wife of Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, launched a campaign to help over 1.65 million displaced Syrian refugee children, called “Big Heart for Syrian refugee children”. Shaikha Jawaher has made the Syrian refugee crisis her immediate focus, saying: “It is tragic that many refugee children are marking their second consecutive (year) without proper shelter, food and education. Let us not leave them to face another year alone, and rather help them to overcome their situation as refugees and live a better life.” The government has pledged over Dh1 billion in aid for Syrian refugees, while the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation has almost completed a project to benefit 135,000 Syrian refugee families in Lebanon. Most refugees have arrived in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, but increasingly Syrians are fleeing to North Africa and Europe. “This one millionth child refugee is not just another number. This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we can only begin to comprehend,” said Unicef executive director Anthony Lake. “We must all share the shame, because while we work to alleviate the suffering of those affected by this crisis, the global community has failed in its responsibility to this child. We should stop and ask ourselves how, in all conscience, we can continue to fail the children of Syria,” he said in a Unicef statement. UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres said what was at stake was “the survival and wellbeing of a generation of innocents”. “The youth of Syria are losing their homes, their family members and their futures. Even after they have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatised, depressed and in need of a reason for hope.” The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says some 7,000 children have been killed during the conflict. Both agencies also highlight the threats to refugee children from child labour, early marriage and the potential for sexual exploitation and trafficking. More than 3,500 children in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have crossed Syria’s borders either unaccompanied or separated from their families. The Syria Regional Refugee Response plan, which calls for $3 billion dollars to address the acute needs of refugees until December of this year, has currently only met 38 per cent of the target. news@khaleejtimes.com Taylor Scott International

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