Plight of Syrian children must be top priority at peace talks – charity

by Maria Caspani | | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 January 2014 16:30 GMT

A man carries a baby who survived what activists say was an airstrike by government forces in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus. Picture January 7, 2014, REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

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Charities draw attention to the plight of millions of Syrian children killed, wounded, displaced, forced to leave school because of the civil war, say peace talks must focus on improving their lot

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Peace talks on ending the Syrian civil war should take the plight of Syrian children as their top priority, Save the Children and other leading humanitarian agencies said on Tuesday in an open letter to the meeting’s participants.

Among the letter’s 14 signatories are United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, International Rescue Committee President David Miliband, U.N. Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

 “Every day in Syria, children are experiencing the brutality of war: injury, death and displacement. Scandalously, hundreds of thousands are trapped in besieged or hard-to-reach areas and receiving little or no aid,” said Roger Hearn, Save the Children regional director for the Middle East. “This tragedy is man-made, and it is within the power of the warring parties to stop it.”

Also known as Geneva II, the negotiations between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition figures to try to end the three-year-old war are due to start on Wednesday in the Swiss town of Montreux,  following several days of confusion and argument over who will attend.

More than 11,000 children have died in the conflict, 71 percent of them killed indiscriminately by explosive weapons used in towns and cities, Save the Children said.  

The United Nations puts the overall death toll in Syria at more than 100,000. Children also make up a large part of the 4.25 million people forced to abandon their homes as a result of the war, and some 2 million Syrian children have had to drop out of school, according to the United Nations. 

The charity called on all Geneva II participants and parties to commit to three points:

1.       Allow life-saving aid to reach children inside Syria
2.       Protect schools and health facilities
3.       Prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas 


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