Pau Gasol, two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and UNICEF Spanish Committee Ambassador since 2003, has returned today from visiting Syrian refugees in Iraq.

Pau Gasol visits children at the Domiz refugee camp in Iraq.
Pau Gasol visits children at the Domiz refugee camp in Iraq.
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“I met children who have fled from a tragic situation in Syria and now depend on urgent humanitarian aid to save their lives and give them an opportunity to build a new life,” stated Gasol.

To date, more than 1.8 million people — of which around 50 per cent are children — have fled the war in Syria into neighbouring countries, including over 160,000 into Iraq.

In Iraq, Pau met a number of children including a 10-year-old boy named Sulinam who told him, “In Syria, our shop was destroyed. I want the war to end there so that I can return home and my brothers and sisters and I can go back to school.”

“It’s so shocking to see what some of the hundreds of thousands of children who have been affected by the conflict in Syria have experienced,” said Gasol. “No child should experience such violence and destruction and be deprived of the basic services that they need to grow and develop to fulfill their potential.”

Some of the UNICEF programs that Pau Gasol saw include: the provision of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities, primary education, health care, and child protection services.

To date inside Syria and in neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees, UNICEF has provided around 10 million people with access to safe water, more than 2.4 million children with vaccinations against measles and 268,000 with access to education, among other responses.

“Providing these services is a huge job,” said Gasol. “While we can see some good results, the needs are enormous. So much more help is needed.”

The humanitarian crisis related to the Syria conflict is unprecedented with the UN having made its largest ever humanitarian appeal as well as making desperate calls to governments around the world to find an immediate end to the humanitarian tragedy.

The continually increasing number of people in need of assistance is stretching UNICEF’s resources.

UNICEF still needs nearly 159 million euros to continue to provide the essential services Syrian children require to recover from the conflict and displacement they have experienced, be healthy and adequately grow and develop.

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