2016-03-10 09:05:00

Syrian children at risk from civil war

(Vatican Radio) A new report from humanitarian aid agency Save the Children says more than a quarter million children in besieged areas of Syria are at daily risk from the ongoing civil war.

Syran children are faced with lack of food and medical care, as well as the emotional and psychological impact of air strikes and bombings.

People in besieged areas of Syria are surrounded by soldiers, landmines, and checkpoints, making it difficult to receive necessary food and medical supplies, or to leave those areas to obtain medical care. “They’re basically like prisons,” said Save the Children’s regional spokesperson Alun McDonald.

Speaking with Vatican Radio, McDonald described the situation in Syria. “People can’t get medicine, and nearly everyone that we spoke to knew of children who’d died because of the lack of medicine, or because they can’t get past the checkpoints, go to hospital.” Children are often malnourished, he continued. “We spoke to parents who were in tears, really, because their children have had to eat leaves or animal feed, or one daily meal of a bit of stale bread dipped in water, and that was all that they could find to eat. And we spoke to teachers who told us of children who were fainting in class, because they were so hungry.”

McDonald also spoke about the psychological and emotional toll on children who live in constant fear of violence. “Children are not just sick and hungry, but they’re also scared and terrified.”

While all of Syria is facing shortages and security concerns, McDonald said, areas that are being besieged are the most vulnerable. “There’s very little humanitarian access allowed to these areas. To get to these areas, because they’re surrounded by military or soldiers or checkpoints, you have to have permission from the parties to the conflict who are in control of the areas, and it’s very, very difficult to get this permission. Last year more than 90 percent of the applications made by the UN to get to these areas were rejected. So it’s very difficult to provide aid.”

Save the Children, with other humanitarian aid agencies, is calling “for a complete end to the sieges.” A cessation of hostilities has led to some improvements in offering aid, McDonald said, “but it’s very limited at the moment, and it is a very small amount compared to what’s needed in these places.”

Listen to the Vatican Viewpoint featuring the full interview of Save the Children’s Alun McDonald with Christopher Wells:

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