As a Save the Children study finds that Syrian children are being beaten, killed and sexually abused, child refugees give first hand accounts about how they have been affected by the conflict.
Children trapped inside Syria are being beaten, killed and sexually abused, a major study has found, with more than two million facing physical attacks, malnutrition and being used as human shields.
Collecting first hand accounts from child refugees, Save the Children, found that one in three of the children had been punched, kicked or shot at, in many cases barely escaping with their lives.
Six-year-old Nidal told Save the Children: “Once, armed men chased us. They shot at [the three of] us and it hit the ground near my foot so I jumped. It hit below my foot and it touched my shoe but I kept running. We reached a wall and couldn’t run anymore.
“I was scared, very scared. I was scared and my friends too. We were surrounded by walls.”
As the conflict in Syria reaches its third year with more than 70,000 killed, children are becoming ever more drawn into the warfare. Some young boys are being used by armed groups as porters, runners and human shields, bringing them close to the front line, while many girls are being married off early to protect them from a widely perceived threat of sexual violence.
The report, ‘Children Under Fire’, found a “growing pattern” of armed groups, both with and against the Syrian regime, recruiting children under 18 for the dangerous work of being guards or informers. Save the Children cites cases of children as young as eight who have been used as human shields.
Citing interviews conducted by Bahcesehir University, the report finds that almost one in three children has been separated from family members and that three in four children had seen the death of a loved one.
“For millions of Syrian children, the innocence of childhood has been replaced by the cruel realities of trying to survive this vicious war,” said Save the Children Chief Executive Justin Forsyth.
“Many are now living rough, struggling to find enough to eat, without the right medicine if they become sick or injured. As society has broken down, in the worst cases, hunger, homelessness and terror have replaced school for some of these young people. We cannot allow this to continue unchecked; the lives of too many children are at stake. ”