‘Unprecedented suffering’: UN says 2016 worst year yet for Syrian kids

The agency’s report comes two days before the sixth anniversary of the Syrian civil war and says at least 652 children were killed in Syria last year, making 2016 the worst year yet for the country’s rising generation.

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UNICEF says schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and homes across Syria are unsafe for children because they frequently come under attack. At least 255 children were killed in or near schools last year.

FILE: Children pulled by an adult after airstrikes killed over 20 people, mostly children, in the northern rebel-held village of Hass, Syria.Muaz al-Shami, Syrian Revolution Network

“The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future.”

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Key findings of the report were:

At least 652 children were killed – a 20 per cent increase from 2015 255 children were killed in or near a schoolMore than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, more than double the number recruited in 2015 

It warns coping mechanisms and medical care are quickly eroding, driving children into child labour, early marriage and combat.  

Children are also dying in silence, often from preventable diseases, with at least 280,000 children living under siege and almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid.

FILE: A Syrian refugee child works at a shoe workshop in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey. AAP

One in three of Syria’s schools are unusable, and 1.7 million children still in Syria are out of school.  

Families are turning to drastic measures to survive, with more than two thirds of households using children for work to support their families, some in extremely harsh conditions unfit even for adults. 

The report also found nearly 6 million children now depend on humanitarian assistance.

Despite neighbouring countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, taking in millions of Syrian refugees, many are still homeless within Syria. 

UNICEF has called for a political solution to the conflict in Syria as well as an immediate end to crimes committed against children.

– with AAP

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