Peace talks the best chance for Syria’s children, says World Vision

By agency reporter
November 26, 2013

World Vision has applauded the UN announcement for a set date of peace talks on 22 January 2014 arguing this offers the only real hope of shining a light on the dire humanitarian situation faced by Syrian children.

“The international community has failed the children of Syria. Every month that goes by without a peaceful resolution means more children displaced from their homes, missing school or even fighting on the frontlines of the conflict,” said Joe Harbison, World Vision’s response manager for the Syrian crisis. “The time to act is now.”

Nine-year-old Syrian refugee, Abdurahman, said: “If you hear the sound of helicopter, you have to run for your life. But, if you hear a plane, that means you are still alive, because it is very fast and you only hear it after it hits; but that also means that other people have died.”

World Vision calls on all parties join the talks in good faith with an eye toward protecting the most vulnerable and pushing for a lasting end to the conflict.

“This is great news because these talks represent the best chance Syria’s children have had in over two years for a future free from fear and violence,” said Justin Byworth, chief executive of World Vision UK.

“For too long the agonies faced by Syria’s children has been obscured by the complexity of the politics. The simple fact is millions of Syrian’s have had their lives torn apart. As the atrocities continue, we need leaders at the Security Council and beyond to show they are prepared to push urgently for peace and support humanitarian responses. They need to come together to negotiate an immediate ceasefire, followed by peace talks.”

World Vision has released a report called Stand with Me: Ending the War on Syria’s Children – detailing the consequences of the Syrian conflict on young people. More than four million children in the region have been affected by the conflict, including two million children inside Syria who have been displaced from their homes. The recent escalation of fighting has led to a rise in casualties, with more than 7,000 children killed.

In fact, surveyors found that in some cases children are being specifically targeted in massacres and executions.

The report also found an alarming number of children used in the conflict. In some hotspots of the conflict, as many as 25 per cent of children over 15 years old are tied to an armed group. Reports indicate children as young as eight are being used by armed groups as human shields.

Others, such as three-year-old Hamza are expressing a desire to join armed groups, “I want to be in the war, with guns.”

The situation for Syrian children is unacceptable and will likely continue to degrade unless all parties commit to protecting children in the conflict and prioritising their needs.

World Vision is calling for all parties to work together to:

* Resolve the conflict –The fastest way to protect all Syrian children is to end the violence. All parties to the conflict should agree unconditionally to join the talks in good faith to reach a settlement, end hostilities, and create a map towards transition.

* Protect children now – Even before an agreement can be reached and implemented, more must be done to end the targeting of children. Parties to the conflict bear the primary responsibility for ending policies and practices violating child rights. States with influence over parties to the conflict also bear responsibility, and should leverage their influence to ensure children are protected.

* Provide immediate humanitarian access. Immediate actions must be taken in order to ensure children and their families can access desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Children represent the largest and most vulnerable group. They have more specific needs than the general population in terms of their protection, health, nutrition and education and face greater challenges in meeting these needs. Children must be prioritised in all discussions regarding humanitarian access.

[Ekk/3]

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