GENEVA (Reuters) - The number of Syrian children forced to flee their devastated homeland will on Friday reach a million, half of all the refugees driven abroad by the conflict, the United Nations said.
Another two million Syrian minors are uprooted within their country and are often attacked or recruited as fighters in violation of humanitarian law, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR and U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
“The youth of Syria are losing their homes, their family members and their futures. Even after they have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatized, depressed and in need of a reason for hope,” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.
Nearly two million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and North Africa, the UNHCR says. They include 40,000 Syrian Kurds who flooded into Iraqi Kurdistan in the past week.
The United Nations demanded Syria give its chemical weapons experts immediate access on Thursday to rebel-held Damascus suburbs where poison gas appears to have killed hundreds, including many children, a few miles from the U.N. team’s hotel.
UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said Syrian youth were bearing the brunt of the war, which has taken the lives of some 7,000 children among the estimated 100,000 victims. The one millionth child refugee was not just another number, he said.
“We must all share the shame, because while we work to alleviate the suffering of those affected by this crisis, the global community has failed in its responsibility to this child. We should stop and ask ourselves how, in all conscience, we can continue to fail the children of Syria,” he said.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Andrew Roche