A report compiled by UNICEF says the last ten years of the Syrian conflict has led to thousands of children’s deaths, and at least 5,700 have been recruited as child soldiers.

A decade has passed since war broke out in Syria after the Arab Spring protests were brutally crushed by the Assad regime, causing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. 

The last ten years of conflict has proved deadly for tens of thousands of Syrian children, who couldn't escape the bloodletting and fell victims to the war. Their story has mostly been overshadowed by the larger narrative of the Middle East's unforgiving wars. 

UNICEF's new report, however, shines some light on the issue, revealing some unsettling statistics: at least 12,000 children have been killed or injured in Assad's war, which has cost 600,000 lives in total since March 2011.   

Marking the 10th anniversary of the conflict, Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the UN, said that Syria continues to be a “living nightmare” as almost half of the Syrian children have never seen a day without war. At least 60 percent of them, he added, are at risk of starvation.

"It is impossible to fully fathom the extent of the devastation in Syria, but its people have endured some of the greatest crimes the world has witnessed this century. The scale of the atrocities shocks the conscience," Guterres said.

"Syria has fallen off the front page. And yet, the situation remains a living nightmare," he told reporters.

On the other hand, in its heart-wrenching report, UNICEF revealed some statistics of the cost of the war for Syrians. 

As per the report, just in 2020, the price of the average food basket increased significantly by over 230 percent, and more than 500,000 children in Syria under the age of five suffer from stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition. 

Moreover, the report also revealed that over 3 million Syrian children are not able to continue their education - 40 percent of them consist of girls. More than 1,300 education and medical facilities, likewise their staff, have come under attack. 

When it comes to the child mortality rate as a result of the war, it has been verified that between 2011 and 2020, around 12,000 children were either killed or injured while almost 6,000 Syrian children -some as young as seven years old- were recruited to fight. 

While looking at the ongoing impact of war on Syrian children, UNICEF’s report highlighted the fact that the number of children displaying symptoms of psychosocial distress had doubled in 2020, as continued exposure to violence, shock and trauma have had a significant impact on mental health, with short and long-term implications.

The situation worsens day by day, even though it is already alarming. In addition, millions of children remain displaced while trying to avoid violence. Moreover, many of them, along with their families have also been suffering from tough weather conditions as they live in tents, shelters, and destroyed or unfinished buildings.

Drawing attention to the need for long-term solutions for Syrian children and their families, UNICEF’s report, while giving further details on the situation, also mentions the hardship that neighbouring countries have faced during this period. 

According to the same report, the number of refugee children in nearby countries, which host 83 percent of the total number of Syrian refugees globally, has increased more than ten-fold to 2.5 million since 2012, putting additional strain on already overstretched communities.

Syrian refugees have sought asylum in more than 125 countries, but the vast majority live in neighbouring countries within the region, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Turkey alone hosts the largest population of over 3.6 million. 

As it has been 10 years since the beginning of the Syrian war, UNICEF reminded the urgent need of supporting and funding Syrian children while calling for the renewal of the UN Security Council Resolution on cross border assistance allowing the continuation of delivery of life-saving assistance across Syria’s borders.

Calling Syrian children the biggest losers of this war, it said that it is time for warring parties to put the guns down and come to the negotiation table. Peace and diplomacy are the only way out of this abyss.

In the last 10 years, the UN Security Council has been divided over how to sort out the Syrian issue, with Assad regime’s ally Russia and China vetoing 16 resolutions related to Syria.

Source: TRT World