Physical violence, child labour, early marriage and even war itself are now considered normal by many Syrian children. World leaders meeting in Brussels this week must ensure protection of civilians, especially the most vulnerable children, humanitarian access to all those in need and creating an enduring political solution to the conflict are prioritised, and that those present commit to concrete actions.
“Many inside Syria feel the outside world has forgotten them, that world leaders and their electorates don’t care about incessant violations of international humanitarian law, and a never-ending cycle of misery as families are displaced to ever more dangerous areas. The Brussels Conference is a chance to prove that the world does care; but, to do that, there must be concrete outcomes which make a tangible difference” says Chris Latif, World Vision's Response Manager for Northern Syria
While leaders from neighboring countries and the international community gather today and tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the future of Syria and the region, World Vision is concerned by the toll on children as this worst humanitarian crisis since WWII enters its 7th year.
“This last year has been the worst of the conflict for children, we have seen the most violence and greatest violations of their most basic rights,” says Justin Byworth, World Vision Brussels’ Executive Director. ”Armed groups bombed a Syrian school on average every week over the past year.”
In October and November 2016 alone, children accounted for more than 20% of all civilian deaths in Syria. 750 grave violations against children in Syria were recorded in just the first six months of 2016. Maiming, killing and recruitment and use of children as soldiers were the most common offences and were committed by all parties to the conflict. At least 3.7 million Syrian children living inside Syria and in neighbouring countries have known nothing but war.
In a recent survey, 50 per cent of Syrian children told World Vision they dreamed of peace and returning home to Syria.
“I love Syria, but at the moment, I wouldn’t feel safe there,” explains 9-year-old Dalal, now living in a host community in Jordan. “When I was in Syria I feared the airstrikes and the gun-shots”.
In 2016, World Vision’s response in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq reached almost 2.3 million people with education, child protection including Child Friendly Spaces, food and cash assistance, water, sanitation, health, and winter supplies. This included Syrians and Iraqis displaced in their own nations, and the families and communities who host them. Over one million of them were children.