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Unicef appeals for £806 million for Syria crisis response: alarming figures highlight extent of humanitarian crisis

The latest figures on the Syria crisis, included in Unicef’s Humanitarian Action for Children report, show that over 4.3 million Syrians have now fled the country, equivalent to almost one fifth of the country’s population.

More than 13.5 million people, including six million children, who have remained inside Syria, are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Of these, 4.5 million people, including two million children, are living in hard-to-reach and besieged areas such as Madaya, Koah and Kafraya.

These staggering figures are equivalent to the entire population of Greater London and Manchester being forced to flee the United Kingdom. The proportion of the Syrian population who have been displaced within the country would be comparable to the population of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the entire north of England being forced from their homes. 

As the conflict approaches its sixth brutal year, Syria remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child. Millions of children have lost family, homes and loved ones. Every day children face unspeakable violence, a lack of food and clean water, education and an increased risk of falling prey to disease, malnutrition and exploitation.  

Inside Syria, the delivery of basic services is severely hampered in most parts of the country, affecting children’s access to education, health care, water and sanitation and other basic social services. An estimated one third of children under five have never been reached with routine immunisation, and more than 6,000 schools – close to one third – can no longer be used because they are have been destroyed or damaged, are sheltering displaced families or being used for military purposes. More than two million children are now out of school, putting the future of an entire generation at risk.

These shocking figures come as Unicef launches a £1.96 billion (US$2.8 billion) appeal to reach 43 million children whose worlds have been turned upside down by humanitarian emergencies worldwide. 

For the first time ever, the largest portion of the appeal – 25 per cent – is going towards educating children in emergencies.  This year Unicef plans to dramatically increase the number of children in crises who are given access to education – from 4.9 million at the beginning of 2015 to 8.2 million in 2016.  More than half - 5 million – will be Syrian children inside the country or in neighbouring countries. 

Unicef’s annual appeal has doubled since this time three years ago.  The twin drivers of conflict and extreme weather are forcing growing numbers of children from their homes and exposing millions more to severe food shortages, violence, disease, abuse, as well as threats to their education.

Unicef is appealing for £806.6 million (US$1.16 billion) to fund the humanitarian response plan for Syria and the surrounding region in 2016, with education making up the largest proportion of this appeal for the first time. Over $91 million is needed for education programmes inside Syria including plans to reach 3.2 million children with primary school supplies. 

Despite the incredibly challenging operating environment, Unicef and partners reached 7.9 million people inside Syria in 2015, including 1.5 million people – half of which were children – in hard to reach and besieged areas. 

Dr Peter Salama, Unicef’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The destructive impact of the Syria conflict is being felt by children right across the region. It’s not just the physical damage being done, but the despair felt by a generation of children who see their hopes and futures shattered. Urgent concerted efforts and resources are needed to save this generation of children – and it can start at next week’s conference in London. It’s a race against time. ”

Around 246 million children - 1 in 9 of the world’s children– are now living in conflict zones. In 2015, children living in countries and areas affected by conflict were twice as likely to die of mostly preventable causes before they reached the age of five, than those in other countries.  More than 16 million children were born into conflict in 2015 – 1 in 8 all births worldwide. 

Children in Syria are being killed while studying in the classroom. They are being forced to become soldiers. Many have been orphaned. Whilst protecting children from violence is life-saving in emergencies, just like water, shelter and medicine, it isn’t prioritised in the same way. The public can also sign Unicef UK’s petition to keep children safe and tell David Cameron to make protection from violence a priority http://tinyurl.com/jxh9lqp

Notes for editors: 

Last week, hundreds of humanitarian organizations and United Nations agencies issued a powerful joint appeal, urging people around the world to raise their voices and call for an end to the Syria crisis and to the suffering endured by millions of civilians.

For more information, please contact the Unicef UK press office on 020 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk  

UK Population comparisons based on 2014 figures taken from the Office of National Statistics


About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

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