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Record 9.3 million Syrian children in need of aid, says UN

More than 6.5 million children inside Syria - and 2.8 million outside - now depend on assistance, according to Unicef
Syrian children play in a refurbished playground in the northern city of Raqqa on 30 April 2022 (AFP)

More Syrian children are in need than at any time since the country's devastating civil war erupted over a decade ago, but funding for them is "dwindling", the United Nations (UN) warned on Sunday.

"Syria's children have suffered for far too long and should not suffer any longer," the UN children's agency Unicef said in a statement, noting that 9.3 million were in need of aid both inside the country and in the wider region where they had fled.

"More than 6.5 million children in Syria are in need of assistance, the highest number recorded since the beginning of the crisis, more than 11 years ago," it added.

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Meanwhile, "in Syria’s neighbouring countries, strained by political instability and fragility, nearly 2.8 million children depend on assistance, their lives riddled with poverty and hardship".

Syria's war is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

"Children's needs, both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, are growing," said Adele Khodr, Unicef's Middle East chief.

"Many families struggle to make ends meet. Prices of basic supplies, including food, are skyrocketing, partially as a result of the crisis in Ukraine."

Children are among the most vulnerable and the UN warned they are bearing the brunt of the impact.

Unicef said they faced a severe cash shortfall that is affecting their ability to provide aid.

"Funding for humanitarian operations is meanwhile fast dwindling," Khodr said. "Unicef has received less than half of its funding requirements for this year."

Unicef called for $20m to fund "cross-border operations" in northwest Syria - the country's last major rebel enclave - to create "the only lifeline for nearly one million children".

'More than 40,000 out of school'

Last week, research commissioned by Syria Relief and its parent charity Action For Humanity showed that more than 40,000 Syrian children have been forced out of school as a result of cuts to overseas aid by the British government.

British funding for 133 schools run by Syria Relief ended last weekend, one of the effects of a government decision first announced in November 2020 to cut total foreign aid spending from a commitment of 0.7 percent of gross national income to 0.5 percent.

In their report, released on Thursday and entitled "The children failed by the world", the charities described the UK's action as "a political choice that we, and the children, parents, and teachers of Syria, hope will desperately be reversed". 

Jessica Adams, head of communications for Syria Relief/Action For Humanity and the report's author, said that "in less than 12 months, Syria Relief have gone from running 306 schools to 24 and it could be zero by the end of year, leaving over 100,000 children out of education".

Among the consequences of the closures, Syria Relief said "parents are considering sending their children to work or forcing their girls into early marriages if they are unable to attend school".

The charity added that "thousands of children who need psychosocial support due to trauma will no longer receive any of the mental health support they need".

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