GENEVA — The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said that grave violations against children in Syria were the highest on record in 2016, said in UNICEF’s a grim assessment of the conflict’s impact on children, as the war reaches six years.
Verified instances of killing, maiming and recruitment of children increased sharply last year in a drastic escalation of violence across the country. At least 652 children were killed — a 20-percent increase from 2015 — making 2016 the worst year for Syria’s children since the formal verification of child casualties began in 2014.
More than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, more than double the number recruited in 2015. Children are being used and recruited to fight directly on the frontlines and are increasingly taking part in combat roles, including in extreme cases as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.
There were at least 338 attacks against hospitals and medical personnel.
“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 speaking from Homs, Syria. “Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future.”
Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult. The most vulnerable among Syria’s children are the 2.8 million in hard-to-reach areas, including 280,000 children living under siege, almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid.