UNICEF Warns of a ‘Lost Generation’ for Syria’s Children

The humanitarian agency lacks the money to serve the millions displaced by the Syrian civil war.

syria civil war unicef drinking water sanitation

Graphic courtesy of UNICEF
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has requested $US 195 million to help Syrians affected by the country’s civil war. The humanitarian agency has received just over 20 percent of its request and may have to scale back its operations. Click to enlarge

Of the 4 million people within Syria whose lives have been upended by a violent and deadly civil war, nearly half are children.

Another one million refugees, more than half of them under the age of 18, have scattered across five borders – to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. An estimated 7,000 people join their ranks every day, according to the UN.

Amid the human swell, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warns that an entire generation of Syrian children is at risk from societal collapse. And the agency says it needs more money to carry out its mission.

One in five schools in the tattered country is destroyed, and water availability is one-third what it was before the crisis began two years ago, according to UNICEF.

“Millions of children inside Syria and across the region are witnessing their past and their futures disappear amidst the rubble and destruction of this prolonged conflict,” writes UNICEF Director Anthony Lake, in the foreword to Syria’s Children: A Lost Generation?, a report released this month. “We must rescue them from the brink, for their sake and for the sake of Syria in future generations.”

UNICEF has delivered water treatment supplies to 4 million Syrians so far. The agency plans to increase its reach and supply 10 million people with purification tablets.

To provide these services through the end of June, UNICEF says it needs $US 195 million. The agency has received only 20 percent of its request and says it may have to suspend some of its projects by the end of March.

Beyond services, food production, too, has been crippled. The civil war has damaged irrigation canals, leading to rising food insecurity.

“Close to 10 percent of the Syrian population is now in need of food assistance,” said Dominique Burgeon, in January. “Of course, with the massive drop in food production, this number can only rise in the coming weeks and months if the situation is left unchanged.” Burgeon is the director of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division.

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