Five years of war in Syria has created 2.4 million child refugees, killed more than 10,000 children between 2011 and 2013 and forced children as young as seven to be recruited by warring parts of conflict, UNICEF warned in a report on Monday.
The 26-page report “No Place for Children” said there are more than 200,000 children living under siege in Syria while two million children are without access to aid in the country.
UNICEF figures have estimated that more than 80 percent of Syria’s child population, at least 8.4 million children, have been affected by the conflict that continues despite a fragile cessation of hostilities, reached last month.
UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, warned in the report that almost 1,500 of those violations verified that bombs targeted classrooms, health centres and parks to rubble has put the future of Syria in danger.
“We cannot restore the precious years of childhood snatched away by this brutal war” Lake said, adding “but we can and must prevent their futures from also being stolen...for their futures are the future of Syria.”
The report called for precautions to punish those responsible with violations; including, killing, maiming, abduction and arrest. It also said that schools and hospitals are important for Syria’s future build by peacemakers, doctors, engineers, educators and leaders.
Jan Egeland of Norwegian Refugee Council expressed his fears in the report regarding the consequences of colossal abuse of children’s rights, saying that those crimes could outlast the war itself by decades. Egeland also stated that the world failed to help children of Syria by not preventing war crimes at the moment of its greatest need could not expect them to respect international law.
“Attacking children in their playgrounds or at their school desks is a war crime. Those who attack and allow attacks on children must, one day, face justice as possible war criminals,” Egelan said.
Military activity in civilian areas in Syria stirred outrage last month, when Russian air planes in collaboration with Syrian regime targeted a school and a children’s hospital last month in the opposition held town of Azaz and Idlib.
Syrian conflict recruits children
"A trend of particular concern is the increase in child recruitment," UNICEF said.
"Children report being actively encouraged to join the war by parties to the conflict offering gifts and 'salaries' of up to $400 a month."
Since 2014, warring sides have recruited younger children, it said, some as young as seven. More than half of children recruited in cases UNICEF verified in 2015 were under 15.
Outside Syria, 306,000 Syrian children have been born as refugees, it said. UN refugee agency UNHCR says nearly 70,000 Syrian refugee children have been born in Lebanon alone.
UNICEF also added that 3.7 million children had been born since the conflict began, a third of all Syrian children.
Some 2.8 million Syrian children in Syria or neighbouring countries are not attending school. Dozens of schools and hospitals were attacked in 2015, according to aid groups.
"Half of all medical staff have fled Syria and only one third of hospitals are functional. Each doctor used to look after the needs of around 600 people – now it's up to 4,000," UNICEF said.
Syria's neighbours host the vast majority of its 4.8 million refugees. Europe hosts an eighth of the numbers residing in those countries, it said.
UN-brokered peace talks open on Monday in Geneva to seek an end to a conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people.