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Published: Tue, March 14, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

'Scarred for life': UNICEF says 2016 worst year for Syrian children

'Scarred for life': UNICEF says 2016 worst year for Syrian children

A new report from the children's charity Unicef says that Syrian children have "paid the heaviest price in this six-year war", laying out in stark detail the horrors perpetrated against minors during the civil war in 2016 alone, with 652 children killed in attacks and at least 850 others recruited to take part in the fighting - including, in extreme cases, as executioners, suicide bombers and prison guards.

UNICEF reported on Monday that the war between President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic rebel groups seeking to bring down his government, which began in 2011, has not let up with continuous attacks on schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and homes.

UNICEF said that cases of children being killed, maimed, or recruited into armed groups were the "highest on record" previous year.

The report also warns that coping mechanisms and medical care are eroding quickly in Syria, driving more children into child labour, early marriage and combat roles.

"The depth of suffering is unprecedented", said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's Middle East regional chief.

Volunteers rescue a boy from rubble following a barrel bomb attack on the Syrian city of Aleppo on November 24, 2016.

UNICEF is calling for worldwide action after releasing figures showing 2016 was the most violent year on record for children in Syria. One in every three schools in Syria is unusable, some because armed groups occupy them. Countless more are dying from preventable diseases that could easily be cured.

"The more the war continues the more we realise, that there are no winners to this, or that there are only losers, and the biggest losers really are the children".

The report said both sides showed a "callous disregard" for children's lives.

The use of child soldiers is also on the rise in Syria, Unicef said.

Around 6.5 million people are displaced within Syria and almost 5 million have sought shelter in neighbouring countries where conditions are getting increasingly desperate.

A total of 5.8 million children in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 2.8 million are located in hard-to-reach areas where movement and the transfer of aid are restricted.

"We join the rest of the worldwide humanitarian community on this milestone of shame to voice outrage at the plight of millions of civilians living in a downward spiral of despair".

It said siege and starvation continued to be used as weapons of war and called for an immediate end to all obstacles preventing civilians accessing aid. More than 1.7 million children are out of school, and one in three schools have been either destroyed or repurposed to shelter displaced families or to serve the military.

More than 310,000 people have been killed and millions have been forced to flee their homes since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011.

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