Save the Children and other leading humanitarian agencies have published an open letter calling on the parties to the Syrian conflict meeting in Geneva to urgently focus on the plight of children.
The 14 signatories also include Antonio Gutteres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; David Miliband, President of the International Rescue Committee; Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF.
The letter marks the first time top humanitarian agencies have come together to publicly call on all sides to take measures to allow lifesaving aid to reach children trapped inside Syria and prevent them from being targets of violence.
More than 11,000 children have died in this conflict already, 71 percent of them killed indiscriminately by explosive weapons used in towns and cities.
“With the parties in Syria’s conflict meeting in Geneva tomorrow, we believe the time has come to urgently focus on the plight of children. Over 11,000 Syrian children have already lost their lives,” reads the letter. "From the shelling of residential areas to attacks on schools and hospitals, children are being targeted. More than 4 million children have been forced to flee their homes, including over a million who have fled the country altogether. Many are traumatized, hungry, and in urgent need of shelter and protection. Scandalously, aid cannot reach the children who need it the most. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in conflict zones and are receiving little or no humanitarian assistance at all.
“Every child in Syria who is hurt, or killed, or loses a loved one, represents yet another failure by the international community. We hereby commit to becoming champions for Syria’s children, speaking out for their rights at every opportunity. An entire generation is being lost to violence. All of us bear a responsibility to save these children.”
Save the Children, the world’s leading independent organization focused on the needs of children, wants the Geneva II participants to make protecting children the first item on their agenda. It called on all parties to commit to the following:
• Allow lifesaving aid to reach children inside Syria
• Protect schools and health facilities
• Prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
“Children in Syria are experiencing an unrelenting brutality of war. Four million children have been forced to leave their homes and children are frequent victims of violence that leaves them severely injured or dead. This tragedy is man-made, and it is within the power of the warring parties to stop it,” said Save the Children President & CEO Carolyn Miles.
“The first item on the agenda at Geneva II must be protecting children,” Miles added. “The parties have already demonstrated the power of political will when they began moving chemical weapons out of Syria. We need to see the same political will to ensure that even if the fighting continues, children and other civilians are no longer targeted.”
“Save the Children’s three-point plan to protect the children of Syria is about ending the appalling situation that places the most vulnerable directly in harm’s way. If parties to the talks come together to make these three things happen, fewer children will die. It is that simple,” Miles said.
Save the Children has reached 900,000 people through its regional response to the Syrian crisis, including more than 300,000 within Syria Itself. The agency’s response includes supporting mothers to ensure babies are kept healthy and fed, preventing malnutrition and providing communities with food, safe water, medicine and shelter.
Save the Children is also working to help children overcome their traumatic experiences through emotional support and play therapy, and helping them to return to getting an education.
The agency said that approximately 4.5 million children inside Syria need assistance.