The ongoing unrest in Middle Eastern nation has left hundreds of thousands of children dead, maimed or traumatized.
The haunting image of Omran, a little boy mutely caked in blood and dust following an airstrike, has become the latest symbol of Syria’s war and its devastating impact on children. Footage of the shell shocked four-year-old made headlines around the world and Omran was dubbed by Washington as “the real face” of the conflict.
Only in September 2015, Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach after a desperate attempt by his Syrian family to reach Europe by boat, focused global attention on the crisis faced by refugees fleeing Syria.
For every Omran and Aylan, there have been hundreds of thousands of children killed, maimed and traumatized by the relentless violence.
Some 3.7 million children have been born since Syria’s war started in March 2011, according to the U.N.’s child agency UNICEF. They have grown up knowing nothing but fighting, fear and upheaval.
A total of 8.4 million children—80 percent of all Syrian children—have been affected by the conflict, whether in Syria or as refugees, UNICEF says.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, more than 14,700 children have been killed since 2011. Most died in bombardments. Dozens have also died of hunger or due to a lack of access to healthcare in regions under siege. Others lost their lives in gas attacks.
According to the Save the Children charity, children represent 35 percent of victims in the besieged northern city of Aleppo.
According to UNICEF, half of the nearly 600,000 Syrians under siege are children, some forced to eat animal feed and leaves just to survive.
Human Rights Watch says at least 1,433 children have been jailed since the start of the war, of whom only 436 have been freed. Among the thousands of tortured detainees photographed by ‘Cesar,’ an anonymous Syrian photographer who managed to smuggle images of prison abuse out of Syria, 100 of those maltreated were boys aged under 18.
They included 14-year-old Ahmed al-Musalmani, arrested in 2012 when Syrian soldiers found a song on his mobile phone criticizing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. He died in prison.
In March, UNICEF said that 2.1 million children within Syria could no longer go to school. In neighboring countries, where Syrians have taken refuge, more than 700,000 Syrian children do not have access to education, especially in Turkey and Lebanon where schools are overwhelmed and lack means.
In Lebanon, many children are forced to work or beg and most go without schooling.