Security Council must ensure an end to the violence against children in Syria

Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, April 18, 2013

New York, 18 April 2013 – More than three million children in Syria suffer from the consequences of the ongoing conflict. “This emergency is a children’s crisis,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict alerted the Security Council this morning during an open briefing on the Syrian crisis.

Thousands of children have been killed in their homes and schools, some have died trying to reach hospitals or while hiding in shelters. In addition, cluster munitions have resulted in hundreds of children who have lost hands, arms or legs. The indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in residential areas has put children in harm’s way and destroyed the societal fabric which protects them – their families and care givers.

Children as young as ten are recruited and used by armed opposition groups for military purposes, including as porters, messengers and combatants. Children are allegedly also being used as human shields by Governments forces.

“Schools and hospitals in Syria are systematically attacked and used by parties to the conflict, risking children’s lives and jeopardizing their access to education and medical assistance,” the Special Representative informed the Security Council. An estimated 2500 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed while approximately 2000 schools are being used as shelters for Internally Displaced Persons. Around 60 per cent of Syria’s health facilities are either damaged or cannot be safely accessed, and approximately 40 per cent of hospitals are inoperative.

During Ms. Zerrougui’s visit to Syria last December, the Government and Free Syrian Army agreed to cooperate with the United Nations to protect these children. However, flagrant child rights violations continue to be reported with no end in sight, and the space for the United Nations to act on Syria is shrinking.

“I urge members of the Security Council to stand together and use their leverage to ensure that parties to conflict immediately fulfill their commitments,” the Special Representative said. Ms. Zerrougui also invites the international body to work towards an effective accountability mechanism to end impunity for those committing grave violations against children.