More than 40,000 Syrian children are out of education as a direct result of British aid cuts, says a leading charity Syria Relief and its parent charity, Action For Humanity.
"If funds are not found to plug the gaps left by the UK government and other donors, a generation of children in northern Syria will be out of school and this will lead to a close-to-immediate rise in child labour, child marriage, early pregnancies, child conscription to military and armed groups, child exploitation and child trafficking," warned Jessica Adams, Syria Relief's head of communications.
"This was a political choice that we, and the children, parents and teachers of Syria, hope desperately will be reversed."
British financial support to 133 schools run by the charity ended on 30 April amid government cut backs on total foreign aid expenditure.
Among the British government's "rushed" £4.2 billion [$5.2 billion] spending cuts announced in March, Syria was the most affected country with 69 per cent funding slashed, despite over a decade of conflict with millions living in refugee and displacement camps.
One Syrian parent, Abu Halid, whose children attend at school in the Mahmoodli displacement camp in the northern part of the country, told the Guardian: "If this school closes, we'll have to send them to schools that ask for money, but we don't have money, not even for rent, so we need the school to stay open."
A report released today by Action For Humanity, entitled 'The Children Failed By The World: The impact of reduced donations and aid budget cuts on the 100,000+ Syrian children forced out of full-time education' found that the number of schools ran by the charity has fallen from 157 to 24 in a space of less than a year. This figure could deplete to as low as zero by August 2022.
International aid cuts, including those from Britain and the US are also leading to a health crisis in northwest Syria, said Amnesty International (AI) today.
"This past year's massive funding drop has immediately translated into the closure of hospitals and vital services, and has left millions of Syrians – who have already suffered conflict and violence – struggling to access medication and other essential health care," said Lynn Maalouf, AI's deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.