By Robin Gomes
The United Nations’ children fund, UNICEF, appealed for an end to the war in Syria once and for all, hoping that 2000 will be “a year of peace” for millions of Syrian children who continue to be victims of the ongoing conflict.
“As a new year begins and the war in Syria approaches its tenth year, the situation for many children – especially in the northwest of the country – remains dire,” lamented UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, in a New Year appeal calling for an end to the fighting.
“New Year’s Day,” she said, “is supposed to be a day of hope and a time to look forward to the year ahead.” “For families in Syria,” she said, “any hope is all too often extinguished by heart-breaking violence.”
Attacks on children
Fore noted that on New Year’s day, five children were killed when the Syrian army launched missiles that struck an abandoned school used as a shelter for displaced families in Sarmin in the northwestern province of Idlib, bordering Turkey. They were among some 8 who were killed.
“Attacks on basic civilian infrastructure providing services for children like schools and hospitals,” Fore lamented, “have become all too common.” “In 2019,” she said, “the UN verified 145 attacks on schools and 82 attacks on hospitals and medical staff.” “More than 90 percent of these attacks were in the northwest including in Idlib.”
The UNICEF chief said that “Each day, nearly 4,500 children are forced to flee their homes, with many having been displaced multiple times.” “At least 140,000 children have been displaced in the past three weeks alone because of heavy violence in and around Idlib.”
The region is the last major stronghold of the rebel fighters and jihadists opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
The UNICEF Executive Director also pointed out that a brutal winter weather, with storms, heavy rains and plunging temperatures, has made it even more gruelling for children and families, especially those fleeing violence or living in camps.
UNICEF and its partners are on the ground providing Syrian children with winter clothes and blankets, clean drinking water, health care, education and psychosocial services, among other support. However, Fore said, these efforts are not enough.
Hopes for 2020
“Only an end to the war,” she said, “can bring Syria’s children the safety they need and deserve.” “Until that time, their right to a peaceful present and hopeful future will go unfulfilled.”
The UN’s children’s rights agency appealed to the parties in conflict to immediately end hostilities in northwest Syria to first and foremost protect children, resume efforts to reach a peaceful agreement and end the war in Syria once and for all.
It called on them to stop all attacks on children and services that provide for them including health and education facilities and water systems. It also called for sustained and unhindered humanitarian access to all children in need in the northwest and elsewhere in Syria.
Fore said, “It is my most heartfelt hope that 2020 will – finally – be a year of peace for Syria’s children.”