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Children Bear the Brunt of Errant Attacks in Syrian Civil War

The crisis in North-west Syria is quickly morphing into a child protection crisis, rising at an unprecedented scale. The children find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place since they are caught up in the dilemma to either choose to leave for the life of misery in an overcrowded makeshift camp or die. The impact of the Syrian civil war has been the hardest on children.

Violence following the civil war in Syria spewed over the past week forcing 6,500 children to flee every day, bringing the tally of displaced children in the area to more than 300,000 since early December. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are in dire need of food, water and medical facilities. Children and families are taking refuge in public facilities, schools, mosques and even shops, whichever is available. Others are simply living under the sky, even amidst heavy rains and freezing cold weather. The Syrian civil war is taking a deadly toll on children. Of the 900 children killed in Syria in the past year alone, more than 650 were in the North-west. Idlib also recorded the highest number of child casualties.

Syria military offensive and a ground advance by the Syrian regime have triggered waves of displaced people. The situation in Idlib has been dire, but the recent escalation is worsening the conditions since. This time people are fleeing to areas that are very crowded. Faud Issa, founder of Violet, a humanitarian relief organization, said that in one month, they have had five big waves of IDPs, the last one took place last Tuesday.

The recent violence has pushed people out of multiple towns along the many highways running through the opposition’s enclave. The Syrian regime announced the capture of the opposition-held city of Maraat Al Nouman last Thursday. Civilians fled in multitudes from the town of Saraqib, just a few miles north, along the M5 highway, leaving it as a ghost. To the west in Ariha City, 11 people were killed on Thursday following strikes on a hospital, bakery and residential neighbourhood. These towns are part of a so-called ‘de-escalation zone’ agreed to by Moscow and Ankara in 2018 and the two countries announced a ceasefire in January 2018 that has failed to end the violence. The Syrian regime and Russia deny targeting civilians and say they are targeting terrorists, pointing to the dominance of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham(HTS), a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, in the area.

Videos taken from the area show traffic jams with cars and trucks packed with entire households on major roads leading to north towards the Turkish border. Turkey has said they cannot accept another influx of refugees on top of the 3.6 million refugees living there. Turkey has even threatened military force against Syrian regime and its allies. More than 790,000 people have been displaced since April in the Syrian civil war, according to the latest report from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Fortunately, UNICEF has intervened and with assistance from partners on the ground, it has continually delivered assistance to families in need including those recently displaced. This assistance includes hygiene kits, safe water, vaccination against diseases, screening and treatment of malnutrition. UNICEF has also called for an immediate cessation of hostilities by all parties to allow children and families respite from the violence, the resumption of basic services and the unimpeded delivery of the much-needed humanitarian assistance to every child in need.

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