New York, 7 September 2018 – A further escalation of fighting in Idlib, northwestern Syria, will put the lives of more than 1 million children at imminent risk, UNICEF said today.
“Thousands of children in Idlib have been forced to leave their homes multiple times and are now living in overcrowded makeshift shelters, with food, water and medicine in dangerously short supply,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “A fresh wave of violence could leave them trapped between fighting lines or caught in the crossfire, with potentially fatal consequences.”
The lives of children in Idlib are under daily threat even as they attempt to access the already limited health and education services. Only around half of the public health facilities are currently operational, and doctors say they lack vital medicine and supplies.
An escalation in fighting could also see schools closed and children kept at home. Even as the new school year started on 1 September, many schools are still lacking vital supplies, almost 7,000 classrooms are in need of rehabilitation, and over 2,300 teaching positions are currently vacant.
As fighting intensifies, UNICEF is gravely concerned that potential airstrikes, ground military operations, and the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas will be disastrous for children. As we have seen in similar escalations across Syria, children pay the price with their education, health, mental and physical well-being, and their lives.
UNICEF renews its call for all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
“Our request is simple: Protect children. Give us safe, sustained and unconditional access to them. Allow and enable those who want to leave to do so safely and voluntarily,” said Fore.
While direct humanitarian access is limited, UNICEF is working with local partners in Idlib, western Aleppo and northern Hama to deliver lifesaving assistance and respond to the displacement of civilians. This includes providing water, sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, protection and education services and supplies.
“As the Security Council holds Syria consultations today, I remind its members that the future of millions of Syrian children is in their hands,” said Fore. “Like other humanitarian agencies, we are doing the best we can, but this is far from enough. It is time for the powers that be to face up to their responsibilities toward children.”