Syria: Save Children, millions lose childhood to war

Two million children are trapped in Syria, innocent victims of a bloody conflict which has already killed 70,000, according to a report by London-based international charity Save the Children released on Wednesday.

Illness, malnutrition, grave traumas and precocious marriages for little girls are a constant risk in Syria, the report "Childhood under fire" said. Save the Children stressed the devastating impact of the two-year conflict on children who have a hard time finding food, with dozens of thousands forced to live in barns, parks or caves with no sanitation systems. Many don't go to school as their teachers have fled. In a country where 90% of children attended school, over 2,000 schools have been destroyed or severely damaged while others are used as shelters. Fuel prices have gone up 500% and the coldest winter days have forced many to burn school desks for heat in a vicious circle which damages the future of Syrian children.

The dramatic living conditions of children in Syria are clear in witness accounts from refugees who have fled to Turkey.

One in three children has been attacked, hit or wounded before leaving the country; almost one third of minors have been separated from their families and with the average monthly 5,000 victims of the conflict three out of four children have seen a relative or friend die in the war with very serious psychological consequences.

Some have been used by armed groups to carry messages or goods or as human shields in combat areas while some young girls are forced to marry over fears raised by the growing number of rapes suffered by boys and girls as young as 12 with sexual violence and genital torture.

Wounded or sick children, with illnesses like diarrhoea due to poor hygienic conditions are often not treated because hospitals have been damaged nationwide; one third cannot be used and doctors have been forced to move elsewhere or flee.

In the area of Aleppo alone, according to some sources, only 36 of the 5,000 doctors at the beginning of the conflict have remained. Many women are forced to give birth under precarious conditions, with no assistance or hygiene guaranteed.

'Millions of Syrian children have lost their innocence, which has been torn away from them by a vicious war they are trying to survive in any way possible', said Valerio Neri, director general of the Italian branch of Save the Children.

The charity has called on all sides in the conflict to grant free and secure access to the population in need and to ensure that all efforts are made to end the conflict, launching an international appeal to the UN.(ANSAmed).
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