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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

UN: Syrian children experienced deadliest year in 2018

The annual figures are the highest since the civil war broke out in 2011

Lebanese music composer Jad Rahbani (L) and UNICEF Regional Chief of Communications, Middle East and North Africa Juliette Touma (R) listen to UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere (C) speaking during a press conference to mark 8th anniversary of the Syrian war, in Beirut, Lebanon, 11 March 2019. EPA
Lebanese music composer Jad Rahbani (L) and UNICEF Regional Chief of Communications, Middle East and North Africa Juliette Touma (R) listen to UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere (C) speaking during a press conference to mark 8th anniversary of the Syrian war, in Beirut, Lebanon, 11 March 2019. EPA

Syrian children have experienced the deadliest year in 2018, with more than 1,100 killed by the war, the United Nations said, as a conference on the devastating conflict kicked off on Tuesday in Brussels.

The UN children's agency (Unicef) warned that at least three children were killed every day last year, adding the toll to 1,106, the highest annual figure since the fighting broke out in 2011.

But it stressed that the numbers are likely to be much higher.

“These are the numbers that we as Unicef and the UN have been able to verify. We can assume that the actual number of children killed is likely much higher,” Geert Cappelaere, Unicef’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Syria’s war has killed an estimated half a million people and driven about 5.6 million people out of the country. An additional 6.6 million who are in the country have lost or fled their homes.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by claims of military victory,” Mr Cappelaere said, adding that 4 million children are estimated to have been born inside Syria and one million born in refugee hosting countries.

“Since 2011, five million children whose entire life has been war. Nothing but war,” he said during a press conference in Beirut.

Exploded ordnance accounted for 434 deaths and injuries last year, the agency said.

Since January about 60 children have died trying to get to Al Hol camp in northeastern Syria, which is now home to more than 65,000 people fleeing ISIS.

“In Al Hol camp alone, we estimate that close to 3,000 children of foreign nationality are living in extremely dire conditions,” Mr Cappelaere said.

Civilians have found refuge in Al Hole camp as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) barricaded ISIS’s last territorial rule at the besieged village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.

The UN agency estimates that 90 per cent of civilians inside the camp are children and women.

“Al Hol is meant to host a maximum of 20,000 people. Today more than 65,000 have to be accommodated. I can tell you that the harsh winter has been hitting them hard, particularly on women and children in the camp,” Mr Cappaerlaere said.

Syrian children face a bleak future and are at risk being stateless, he warned.

Almost every day in 2018, a school or a health facility has been targeted, preventing children from going to school.

“They are prevented from benefitting from education, benefitting from much needed health services,” Mr Cappelaere said.

The UN has expressed concern about the intensification of violence and harsh living conditions for children around the country.

Updated: March 12, 2019 11:40 AM

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