18 January 2016

Syria crisis: Urgent action is needed to secure children’s safety and care

Children caught up in the Madaya siege are the most vulnerable group
Photographer: Abeer Pamuk

Following is a statement by Alia Al-Dalli, SOS Children's Villages International Director of Middle East and North Africa Region, on the crisis in Syria.

Deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the towns of Foah, Kefraya and Madaya are taking a profound toll on the population. The children who are caught up in this extreme situation are the most vulnerable group, and urgent action is needed to ensure their safety and care. The Syrian government, which ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, has an obligation to protect children in times of conflict by ensuring they have access to proper nutrition, healthcare, shelter and education.
 
SOS Children’s Villages is on the ground and ready to help children and their families in Madaya and other communities that are under siege. But these efforts, and those of our international partners, have been impeded by security-force checkpoints and a rigid approval process for transit permits. Our own on-the-ground assessment in Madaya confirmed that children are facing extreme hardship. Some have been forced to risk their lives scavenging for food to feed themselves and their families. In Madaya alone, UN agencies estimate that hundreds of people are severely malnourished, and several children are among those who starved to death since the town was cordoned off by security forces in mid-2015.

While we acknowledge the profound human suffering of all Syrians through nearly five years of conflict, children are among the most vulnerable to the physical, social and emotional trauma of wartime deprivation. In order to urgently provide for their needs, we call on the Syrian government, security forces and all conflict parties to immediately:
 
  • Allow the safe evacuation from Foah, Kefraya and Madaya of at-risk children and those without parental care to safe havens, including SOS Children’s Villages interim care centres in Syria
  • Ensure that humanitarian non-governmental organisations and international agencies have safe and unfettered access to these towns to assist children who are malnourished, at risk and without care, as well as provide assistance to the suffering population within the besieged areas
Such critical steps, along with demonstrated efforts to provide for the safety and well-being of affected children, their families and civilians across Syria, are fundamental to building confidence in forthcoming multiparty peace talks, and above all to ease the human toll taken by the protracted conflict.