BEIRUT – The number of Syrian children affected by the civil war in their homeland has doubled in the past year to at least 5.5 million – more than half the country’s children – with devastating effects on the health, education and psychological well-being of an entire generation, the United Nations children’s agency said Tuesday.
The conflict, which enters its fourth year this month, has unleashed massive suffering across all segments of Syrian society, but the impact on children has been especially acute, according to a new report by UNICEF. Malnutrition and illness have stunted their growth; a lack of learning opportunities has derailed their education; and the bloody trauma of war has left deep psychological scars.
“After three years of conflict and turmoil, Syria is now one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child,” the agency said. “Millions of young people risk becoming, in effect, a lost generation.”
Since the conflict began, thousands of videos and photographs of bloodied babies, lifeless children and bombed out schools in Syria have provided stark images of the war’s impact on children. But in many ways, figures provide perhaps the clearest indication of how sweeping an effect the conflict has on their lives.
UNICEF said that more than 10,000 children have been killed in the violence, which would translate into the highest casualty rates recorded in any recent conflict in the region. Of those who have survived, thousands have been wounded, lost their home and schools, and seen family members and friends killed. That trauma has left around 2 million children in need of psychological support or treatment, the agency said.
Almost 3 million children are displaced inside Syria, while another 1.2 million have fled the country and now live as refugees in camps and overwhelmed neighboring communities.
On the education front, UNICEF said that nearly half of Syria’s school-age children – 2.8 million and counting – cannot get an education because of the devastation and violence.