Urgent call for massive investment to prevent lost generation of Syrian children

Press Releases, 7 January 2014

GENEVA, 7 January 2014 UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, World Vision and other partners today called for governments, aid agencies and members of the public to become champions for the children of Syria and support a "No Lost Generation" strategy to protect a generation of Syrian children from a life of despair, diminished opportunities and broken futures.

Through the US$1 billion strategy, the organizations are focusing donor and public support on critical education and protection programmes to lift Syrian children out of misery, isolation and trauma. The strategy is being publically unveiled one week ahead of a major donor conference in Kuwait for humanitarian aid for Syria.

A major public engagement campaign under the hashtag #childrenofsyria is also being launched, using social media to enlist influential supporters and public contributors.

"The future for these children is slipping away, but there is still a chance to save them," said UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres. "The world must answer this crisis with immediate, massive international support."

For nearly three years, Syria's children have been the most vulnerable of all victims of the conflict, say the four organizations, seeing their families and loved ones killed, their schools destroyed and their hopes eroded. They have been wounded either physically, psychologically or both. Children have also become vulnerable to the worst types of exploitation including child labour, recruitment into armed groups and forces, early marriage and other forms of gender based violence.

Over one million Syrian refugees are children, of which more than 425,000 are under the age of five. The vast majority of these refugees have fled either to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. Among them, nearly 8,000 children have been identified as being separated from their immediate families. The situation for the over three million displaced children inside Syria is even more dire.

UNHCR, UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision and other partners across the region will channel the $1 billion into programmes that, in partnership with governments and local communities, deliver safe education, protection from exploitation, abuse and violence, psychological care and support and offer more opportunities for social cohesion and stability in an already volatile region.

These programmes include strengthening national and community-based child protection systems, which respond to the needs of girls, boys and families at high risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence while protecting all children against such risks.

The initiative will also scale up access to quality education, through formal and non-formal approaches, introducing accelerated curricula for children who have been out of school, vocational training, training of teachers and incentive programmes, creating safe environments that further reduce children's exposure to further risks.

Inside Syria, safe access to education for school-age children and adolescents who are internally displaced is absolutely critical. The "No Lost Generation" initiative will provide remedial education and psychosocial support organized in school clubs for pre-schoolers and other out-of-school children.

"Without these urgent investments, millions of Syrian children may never recover from so much loss and fear," said Guterres. "Their future, and the future of their nation, is at stake."

A special website has been established at http://www.championthechildrenofsyria.org that tells the stories of children affected by the conflict, and shows how investments in children can deliver important dividends, not just for the current victims of the war but for the longer-term future of Syria and the wider region.

Note to Editors

Most of the funding for the No Lost Generation initiative is being sought through two existing appeals the Regional Response Plan aimed at addressing the needs of Syria's child refugees and The Syrian Humanitarian Assistance response plan which addresses the needs of Syrian children who are internally displaced.

Download the summary document of the “No Lost Generation” strategy

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Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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