Statement by SRSG Leila Zerrougui on the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Syria

New York - Today, I introduced the first report of the Secretary-General on the situation of children in Syria to the Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict. The report concludes that the suffering endured by the children of Syria is not only unspeakable, it is unacceptable.

Over 10,000 children have died as a direct result of the conflict. Thousands more have been injured and mutilated. More than a million children of Syria are now living as refugees and millions more are displaced inside their country. Some children have been separated from their families. Others have seen their parents, brothers or sisters getting killed or injured.

Children continue to be recruited and used by armed opposition groups as combatants and in auxiliary roles that put their lives in danger.

Syrian authorities have arrested, detained arbitrarily, mistreated or committed acts tantamount to torture to children on security charges or for their family’s alleged sympathy or involvement with the opposition. Cases of sexual violence of boys in detention have also been reported. Allegations indicate that opposition groups also controlled detention facilities in which children were detained and mistreated.

Schools and hospitals have been disrupted by the conflict and targeted by all parties. A generation of children is denied its basic right to education and healthcare. Thousands are now out of school for a third year and it will be difficult to make up for lost time.

The lack of access to healthcare continues to cost many lives. Simple diseases have become incurable, treatable wounds are in many cases fatal.

I have conducted two visits to Syria during the reporting period. The visits allowed me to assess, first-hand, the impact of the conflict on children and to interact with Government authorities and FSA commanders. During my visits, I also ensured the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism to gather verified information on grave violations committed against children. The Inter-ministerial Committee set up by the Government of Syria is an important step.

Advocacy with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) continued throughout the reporting period and the Syrian National Council (SNC) has indicated that it would seek the UN’s assistance to end recruitment and use of children in its forces. However, I must stress that only by showing actual results and improvements on the ground will the parties to the conflict be able to illustrate their commitment to protect children in the conflict.

Despite recent access by the UN and other humanitarian actors to besieged areas, the impediment to humanitarian access continues to have a grave negative impact on the lives of civilians. I call upon all actors to take the necessary steps to facilitate humanitarian efforts to reach communities in besieged areas and to ensure that evacuations can continue.

I remain convinced that a political solution is the only solution to this conflict. I ask all parties to commit to take urgent measures to protect children:

· Stop indiscriminate attacks in populated areas;
· End the recruitment of children;
· Stop the targeting and military use of schools and hospitals;
· Allow access to detention facilities;
· Avoid the separation of children from their families when exiting besieged areas.

The children of Syria have been exposed to a level of violence they will spend a lifetime recovering from. The international community has a duty to act decisively.

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Stephanie Tremblay
Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
UN Secretariat, Room S-3190
New York, NY 10017
Tel: +1 212 963-8285
Mobile: +1 917 288-5791
tremblay@un.org

Website: http://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org

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