In 2016 at least 652 Syrian children were killed, an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year, according to a report published today by Unicef. Some 850 children – some as young as seven years old – have been recruited to fight in the conflict, double the number recruited in 2015.
This figure only refers to deaths that have been verified, which means the true number of children killed is likely to be much higher. Unicef said it was "the highest on record" level of "grave violations against children" since the 2011 start of the conflict.
These children fight on the frontline, guard prisons and are forced to become suicide bombers and executioners, to man checkpoints and use weapons. Unicef's report stated that underage girls have been sexually abused.
Children are often pushed into early marriage and child labour in order to make money for the family. In two thirds of households, children are working to support their families, as waiters, rubbish collectors, mechanics, carpenters, hairdressers and cleaners, often in very harsh conditions.
Some six million children in Syria depend on humanitarian assistance, a twelve-fold increase since 2012. Almost 300,000 children live under siege out of reach of humanitarian aid and 2.8 million live in hard-to-reach areas. Over 2.3 million Syrian children now living as refugees in surrounding countries.
Last week Save the Children warned that millions of Syrian children could be living in a state of "toxic stress".
In a statement Unicef regional director Geert Capplaere said: "The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down. Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future.