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UNICEF Report Says Syria’s Children Have Become A “Lost Generation” That Is “Scarred For Life”
March 12, 2013
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UNICEF released a new report today saying that children in Syria have become "a lost generation" that will be "scarred for life."

"Because children make up at least 50 per cent of affected people inside [Syria] and in refugee camps... we are looking at an entire generation that has experienced something truly awful," said Simon Ingram, head of communications for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa.

UNICEF says two million children "are suffering the trauma of seeing family members and friends killed, while being terrified by the sounds and scenes of conflict."

"We urge all parties to allow unhindered access to children affected by the violence - wherever they are," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "We can only meet the growing needs of this crisis if we get the help we need today."

UNICEF says it needs more than $195 million to help people in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt until the end of June. So far, only 20 per cent of that money has come through.

Without more, UNICEF says it might have to end a number of "life-saving" services by the end of this month.

That includes water and sanitation services, measles and polio vaccine campaigns, neonatal interventions and emergency medical care.

As well, health clinics that are still operating have difficulty delivering care. Clean water and sanitation is "scarce," a third of what it was before the war.

And one in every five schools is destroyed, damaged or being used to shelter displaced people.

Syrian refugees cross the border into Turkey

"It's gone beyond the point where it's a simple question of patching things up," said Ingram.

"It's a question of rebuilding from the bottom up - and how difficult that will be with a traumatized and distraught population of children who have not been educated or brought up as they should have been."

If you'd like to donate to UNICEF's mission in Syria, click right here.

Meantime, another UN report has come out documenting the horror unfolding in Syria, saying it has reached "new heights of destruction".

U.N. investigators said they're looking into 20 massacres carried out by one side or the other, as well as hundreds of "unlawful killings".

They're also looking into allegations of torture, executions and random arrests.

Paulo Pinheiro, the chair of the commission of inquiry on Syria, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva...

"Indiscriminate and widespread shelling, the regular bombardment of cities, mass killing and the deliberate firing on civilian targets have come to characterize the daily lives of civilians in Syria."

Hospitals have been targeted and medical staff arrested, Pinheiro said, "as a tactic of war".

Syrian rebels & damaged buildings in the city of Homs

Investigators also said the Syrian government is using local militias - known as Popular Committees - to carry out mass killings.

"In a disturbing and dangerous trend, mass killings allegedly perpetrated by Popular Committees have at times taken on sectarian overtones," the report said. "Some appear to have been trained and armed by the government."

It went on to say, "at times they are alleged to be participating in house-to-house searches, identity checks, mass arrests, looting and acting as informants".

But the report didn't just point fingers at President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

It said both sides have committed violations against civilians and are becoming "increasingly reckless" with civilian lives.

Rebels have taken up positions in or around densely populated areas, which is a violation of international law, the report said.

And it said rebel forces have set up their own "prisons" in the cities of Homs and Aleppo and often execute Syrian soldiers and militiamen they capture.

"Some groups are exercising or trying to exercise civilian authority without due process of law," said Vitit Muntarbhorn, an investigator from Thailand.

"So we have allegations for example of sentences being imposed on various people, arrested and captured soldiers and so on, without due process and then being executed, as well as some families."

Muntarbhorn also pointed out that these were war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.

A Syrian family uses an underground tomb to hide from airstrikes and fighting

Ultimately, Pinheiro said the conflict is in a "destructive stalemate", with both sides escalating force "in the fallacious belief that victory is within reach."

That, he said, has led to a "tidal wave" of displacement.

The U.N. says more than one million people have left the country as refugees. 2.5 million others are uprooted inside Syria, and more than 70,000 people have been killed.

Pinheiro called for a political solution to end the civil war, which has dragged on for two years.

"There is an urgent need for a sustained diplomatic initiative to put an end to the violence and the suffering of the Syrian population," he said.

"If the national, regional, and international actors fail to find a solution to the conflict and stop the agony of millions of civilians, the alternative will be the political, economic and social destruction of Syria and its society, with devastating implications for the region and the world."

A 9-year-old girl looks out the entrance of an underground tomb used for shelter

Syrian Ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui brushed off the report saying it's based on "partial information from untrustworthy sources."

American ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe condemned the "regime's brutality" and said...

"We are also deeply concerned by reports of abuses by opposition-affiliated forces and the presence of foreign forces and violent extremists who are attempting to hijack the legitimate struggle of the Syrian people."

Russia called the report "unbalanced" and said there's evidence that rebels are using sexual violence as a weapon and training child soldiers in camps.

Carla del Ponte, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor, told reporters "Sooner or later the International Criminal Court must be seized of the matter."

The report is based on first-hand accounts from 191 interviews conducted last month with witnesses and victims.

via Reuters

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