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New Report Documents 'Childhood Under Siege' In Syria

A woman carries a child injured in a triple blast a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus on Feb. 21.
A woman carries a child injured in a triple blast a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus on Feb. 21.

A new report by Save the Children, an international charity, details what it's like to struggle amid the war in cities and towns in Syria. Based on interviews and focus groups with people living and working in besieged areas, the report says at least quarter-million children are in constant fear and deprivation.

"Since the siege began I've lost a third of my weight," said a boy from Eastern Ghouta, a densely populated area to the southeast of Damascus. "Fruits aren't available for us. Sometimes merchants can bring in some fried cornbread, but most of the market stalls just sell some local vegetables and grass or herbs."

But, according to the report, malnutrition and starvation aren't the only dangers facing children in some Syrian cities. They also lack medicine and hospital access.

"Children are dying from lack of food and medicines in parts of Syria just a few kilometres from warehouses that are piled high with aid. They are paying the price for the world's inaction," Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children U.S. said. "Families interviewed for this report spoke of sick babies dying at checkpoints, vets treating humans and children forced to eat animal feed as they cower in basements from airstrikes."

A father from Deir Ezzor, a large city in Eastern Syria, said, "When the shelling was happening my children were terrified... I saw four children that were hit by the bombs. It was so tragic, I couldn't even watch what was happening. Some children lost their limbs."

Though the bombings don't just put children's lives in danger, the report notes that children are less able to cope with the emotional toll of living in fear. They can become withdrawn, aggressive or depressed.

"Fear has taken control. Children now wait for their turn to be killed. Even adults live only to wait for their turn to die," a mother in Eastern Ghouta said in the report.

A Syrian aid worker is quoted as saying: "There are snipers shooting at anyone on the road, and landmines in the fields. Checkpoints stop everything coming in – food, medicine, fuel; everything needed for life."

While the cessation of hostilities that was brokered last month and went into affect on Feb. 27 has allowed more aid to reach besieged areas, Save the Children is calling on the warring parties to allow unfettered and permanent access for humanitarian aid to all areas, and to end attacks on schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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