Syrian refugee children standing inside a camp for forcibly displaced people in Khirbet al-Joz, Latakia, Syria | ARCHIVE/EPA/MOHAMMED BADRA
Syrian refugee children standing inside a camp for forcibly displaced people in Khirbet al-Joz, Latakia, Syria | ARCHIVE/EPA/MOHAMMED BADRA

March 15, 2019 marked the beginning of the ninth year of the war in Syria. UNICEF is commemorating the date by recalling that 8 million children have been affected by the war, five million of whom need humanitarian assistance within Syria's borders, and 2.5 of whom are refugees in neighboring countries.

Eight years after the start of the conflict in Syria, there are nearly eight million children whose lives have been affected by the crisis, according to UNICEF figures. Overall, more than 5.5 million children need humanitarian assistance, the vast majority of them within within Syria's borders, while an additional 2.5 million children are refugees in neighboring countries. In a statement, UNICEF said children represent nearly 45 percent of the population in need of aid, which totals 11.7 million civilians in Syria and 5.7 million Syrian refugees abroad.

"In Syria in 2018, every day at least three children, three innocent children, were killed. This is only what the UN verified. We can assume that the numbers are higher," said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere."Since the start of the conflict on March 15, 2011, five million Syrian children have been born; four million inside Syria and one million in refugee hosting countries. Five million children who have known nothing but the impact of a brutal war," Cappelaere said.

UNICEF said the Syrian crisis, now in its ninth year, is still one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. More than 83 percent of the Syrian population lives under the poverty line. In 2018 alone, 1,106 children were killed and 748 wounded following armed attacks, while 806 were recruited by armed groups. About 360,000 children live in areas where access to humanitarian organisations is prevented, and nearly 2.6 million children are internally displaced. UNICEF said there are nearly 10,000 underage refugees in neighbouring countries who are separated from or entirely without adult family members, and therefore vulnerable to situations of exploitation.

Nearly 20,000 Syrian children under the age of five suffer from severe and acute malnutrition. In 2018, acute malnutrition more than doubled among pregnant and nursing women. Moreover, about 6.5 million Syrians face food insecurity. UNICEF said the years of conflict have drastically reduced access to basic services, preventing more than two million children - more than a third of those present in the country - from attending school, and exposing another 1.3 million to the constant risk of having to drop out.

Nearly 40 percent of Syrian school buildings have been damaged or destroyed in the war, with a full 120 documented attacks just last year alone. In 2018, the UN also verified 142 attacks against healthcare infrastructure and personnel, the highest number since the start of the conflict. Currently, only half of the country's healthcare structures are functioning.

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