Over 4.8 million Syrian children have reportedly been born during the nine-year-long civil war both within and outside the country, revealed the United Nations' International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF's Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on Sunday– the anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian revolution: "The war in Syria marks yet another shameful milestone today." As the civil war enters its tenth year, children have been and will continue to be some of the biggest victims, as "Millions of children are entering their second decade of life surrounded by war, violence, death and displacement."
The organisation said that data since 2014, the year when official monitoring of the civil war and its effects began, show that "more than 9,000 children were killed or injured in the conflict", adding that "close to 5,000 children – some as young as seven – were recruited into the fighting (and) nearly 1,000 education and medical facilities came under attack."
The wellbeing of Syrian children in the coming future is not predicted to improve, however, with the agency warning that the "true impact of this war on children is likely to be more profound." This is primarily due to the huge effects and destruction brought upon their healthcare and education, particularly in the opposition-held areas of north-west Syria.
Since Bashar Al-Assad's regime and its ally Russia launched their campaign to capture the last opposition-held stronghold of Idlib province in April 2019, families who inhabited the province and took shelter in what was supposed to be a de-escalation zone were bombarded and driven from their homes towards the Turkish border further north. According to UNICEF, this resulted in the displacement of 960,000 inhabitants which included over 575,000 children.
The children are particularly affected by a lack of access to education, the agency stated, as "more than 2.8 million children are out of school inside Syria and in neighbouring countries." The damage is reportedly so widespread that two in five schools cannot be used because they are destroyed, rendered dysfunctional, sheltering displaced families, or being used for military purposes.
UNICEF's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Ted Chaiban said that this ongoing crisis will present even more "severe consequences on children."
Fore addressed all sides in the conflict to de-escalate the fighting and, for the sake of the children who have been affected, to cease the targeting of facilities. "Our message is clear: Stop hitting schools and hospitals. Stop killing and maiming children. Grant us the crossline and cross-border access we need to reach those in need. Far too many children have suffered for far too long."