Violations against children in war-torn Syria were the highest on record in 2016, among the six years since the beginning of the war in 2011, said a UNICEF report on Monday.
In a grim assessment of the war’s impact on children, the United Nations child relief agency (UNICEF), said that the last year recorded a drastic rise in the instances of children being killed, maimed and recruited for fighting.
Recording a 20 per cent increase from 2015, at least 652 children were killed in the conflict last year, of which around 255 were killed in or near a school. This marks 2016 as the worst year for Syrian children since the verification of child causalities began in 2014.
“The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future,” he added.
According to the report, more than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, which is more than double the numbers for 2015. They are recruited to fight on the frontlines as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.
In nearly two-thirds of the households, children work to support their families, some of them under extremely harsh conditions.
While nearly six million children are dependent on humanitarian assistance, around 280,000 children are living under siege, cut off from humanitarian aid, making access to supplies and medical care difficult.
A report released by Save the Children charity last week said that Syrian children were showing signs of “toxic stress”, which can lead to lifelong health problems.
UNICEF said that millions of children have been displaced by the six years of war and more than 2.3 million children are living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
“We continue to witness the courage of Syria’s children. There is so much more we can and should do to turn the tide for Syria’s children,” said Cappelaere.