TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 03/12/13 -- Two million children trapped inside Syria are innocent victims of a bloody conflict that has already claimed 70,000 lives, Save the Children warns in a new report, Childhood Under Fire, launched today to mark two years of violence in Syria.
"For millions of Syrian children, the innocence of childhood has been replaced by the cruel realities of trying to survive war," said Save the Children President and CEO, Patricia Erb. "While visiting refugee families in Lebanon, I saw firsthand their urgent needs for support."
In Childhood Under Fire, Save the Children details the impact of the conflict on children, showing that many are struggling to find enough to eat; are living in barns, parks and caves; are unable to go to school with teachers having fled and schools being attacked; are being forced into early marriage; and that damage to sanitation systems is forcing some children to defecate in the street.
"Through our work across Syria, and in neighbouring countries, we know that Syrian children, who should be learning at school and playing secure in their homes, are instead consumed with grief and trauma and focused on finding the necessities of life - shelter, food and water," said Ms. Erb.
Citing new research carried out amongst refugee children by Bahcesehir University in Turkey, the report also reveals the extent to which children have been directly targeted in the war, with one in three children reporting having been hit, kicked or shot at.
Combined with the breakdown of society in parts of the country and more than three million people displaced, the conflict has led to the collapse of childhood for millions of youngsters, the charity says.
Childhood Under Fire details how some young boys are being used by armed groups as porters, runners and human shields, bringing them close to the frontline, while some girls are being married off early to 'protect' them from a widely-perceived threat of sexual violence.
The report's key findings are:
-- Thousands of children are facing malnutrition as food production is wiped out and severe shortages take hold. "Why did we leave? Hunger. Food. There was none. No bread. If I stayed my children would have died from hunger." - Rami, father of three.-- Millions of children have been forced from their homes and tens of thousands are living in parks, barns and caves. "There were 13 of us in total, crammed into one room. We did not leave that room for two weeks."- Yasmine, 12.-- Girls are being married off early in an effort to protect them from perceived threat of sexual violence. "My daughter is 16 and she loved school. She is innocent and very pretty. I know that men are hurting women. We could not protect her, so we had to marry her. We needed her to have a protector." - Um Ali, mother of 2.-- Families have been left without heating in winter as fuel prices have risen by up to 500 per cent. "In one area of Syria where Save the Children is responding, during the bitter winter, school benches were stolen for firewood; desperate, understandable measures to stay warm, but further erosion of children's opportunities to learn and play."- Childhood Under Fire.
The research by the Bahcesehir University also reveals the extent to which children have been affected by war, with nearly one third of children surveyed saying that they had been separated from members of their families due to the conflict. Three quarters of those surveyed had experienced the death of a close friend or family member. Many are showing signs of emotional difficulties as they struggle to come to terms with their experiences.
Save the Children, which is providing humanitarian relief in Syria and neighbouring countries, is calling for all parties to the conflict to allow unfettered, safe access to populations in need and to ensure that everything is done to bring the fighting to an end.
It welcomes pledges to fund the $1.5 billion humanitarian appeal for Syria, and calls on governments to urgently deliver the money, which is designed to target aid both inside the stricken country and to refugees living on Syria's borders.
The aid agency is appealing for funds to help its response in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan where it is delivering food, warm clothes, blankets, providing education and helping children recover from their experiences.
Interviews with Patricia Erb, and regional spokespeople, are available. Please call: 1-800-668-5036 x222 or off hours at (647) 273-7134.
Read the full report, Childhood Under Fire: http://bit.ly/childhoodunderfire.
About Save the Children
Save the Children is the world's leading independent organisation for children, delivering programmes and improving children's lives in more than 120 countries worldwide. Working toward a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation, Save the Children's mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.
Learn more at www.savethechildren.ca and www.facebook.com/savethechildren.ca.
Save the Children
Toll Free: 1-800-668-5036 x222
(416) 221-5501 x222 or Cell: (647) 273-7134