Imagine a childhood that consists of nothing but devastating war. That’s the reality for a third of Syrian children, who have only known conflict in their short lives, according to a UNICEF report titled No Place for Children (pdf).
The five-year Syrian civil war has affected more than 80% of Syria’s child population—some 8.4 million children in Syria and those seeking refuge in neighboring countries. There are currently two million children without regular access to aid and more than 200,000 children living under siege, with children as young as seven are being recruited to fight.
The report calls for the international community to support the children affected by the conflict “to avoid the loss of an entire generation.” UNICEF has as received only 6% of the funding required in 2016.
UNICEF estimates that 2.4 million children have been forced to flee to neighboring countries as a result of the war. The UN agency verified almost 1,500 “grave violations against children” in 2015, which includes killing, maiming, abductions, arrests, and denial of humanitarian access. In Damascus, Doctors Without Borders reported that women and children below the age of 15 accounted for 40% of all war wounded and 31% of those killed in 2015.
More than 15,000 unaccompanied and separated children have crossed Syria’s borders since the conflict begin. The OECD has previously described (pdf) the large number of unaccompanied minors as a “striking and worrying characteristic of the current refugee crisis.”
These children are particularly at risk of sex abuse and slavery; at least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared since arriving in Europe, according to the EU’s criminal intelligence agency.