The number of children killed in Idlib in the last four weeks has exceeded the total for 2018, Save the Children and its partner organization Hurras Network have found, as the latest escalation of fighting claimed the lives of eight children on Monday.
The escalation in violence which started at the end of April has now resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people, including 90 children, and displaced 440,000 people. Save the Children and Hurras Network can confirm that at least 33 children have been killed since June 24th, compared to 31 children killed during all of 2018.
This week has been the deadliest since fighting escalated in northwest Syria – which is home to 3 million people. Multiple airstrikes and shelling have left more than 66 people dead and hundreds injured. Bodies, some torn into pieces or burnt beyond recognition, are still being recovered from the rubble.
Many of the victims are women and children, some of them suffering the most horrific injuries, according to the UN and field reports.
“The current situation in Idlib is a nightmare. The injuries we are seeing are horrific. It’s clear that once again children have been killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks,” Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria Response Director, said.
“The bombardment is relentless. It seems as though the different sides have stopped fighting each other and are fighting us, civilians, now. It’s just senseless brutality. I saw dozens of people killed in the marketplace, torn to pieces, including many young children who were playing on the street. They should have been safe,” Ahmad*, an eyewitness, told Save the Children.
Humanitarian agencies are already struggling to respond to the displacement across northwest Syria. Civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, continue to be damaged or destroyed. In the last two weeks, at least four medical facilities have been impacted by the violence, as well as a water station serving more than 80,000 people, and several schools, settlements for displaced civilians, markets and bakeries, according to the UN. At least eight water facilities that provided drinking water for around 250,000 people in southern Idlib have been attacked in the last two months alone, as summer temperatures soar and civilians are at increased threat of diseases.
“The children of northwest Syria have been caught in violent conflict for 80 days with no lull. They have been denied education, food, healthcare and forced to sleep under the trees in open fields for months now,” Khush added.
Across Syria, 2.1 million children are out of school and 1.3 million are at risk of dropping out. In the northwest, at least 44 schools have been damaged or destroyed recently, as attacks on educational facilities and personnel have increased. Save the Children is calling on all parties to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law and human rights law, and to place the protection of civilians first. Schools, hospitals and other vital civilian infrastructure must be protected from attacks.
*Name changed for safety reasons.
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Notes to Editors:
· According to the UN, since the end of April, at least 400 civilians have been killed or injured in northwest Syria. The death toll of children is based on reports from field monitors of Save the Children’s partners, Hurras Network.
· Northwest Syria hosts one of the largest internally displaced populations in the country, with half of the population having been uprooted at least once, and some being displaced up to seven times over the course of the conflict. Most now live in overcrowded camps and shelters in rural areas with nowhere left to flee to. Food, water and medicine are in short supply, alongside essential services like p.; schools and healthcare.
· Save the Children supports Syrians in the North West of the country through a network of partner organizations on the ground. Their work includes running primary healthcare clinics and a maternity hospital, vaccination and food security programmes, supporting a network of schools and carrying out child protection work.