A million refugee children in Syria Crisis UNHCR and UNICEF calling for the support of all Hong Kong citizens


A million refugee children in Syria Crisis UNHCR and UNICEF calling for the support of all Hong Kong citizens

(HONG KONG, 23 AUGUST 2013) With Syria’s war well into its third year, the one millionth refugee child appeared today, signifying a million of Syrian children have been forced to flee their homeland as refugees. The number closes to the total number of children aged under 18 in Hong Kong (up to mid 2012).  The physical upheaval, fear, stress and trauma experienced by children could bring irreversible damages and threats to their growth. UNHCR and UNICEF have started the largest humanitarian operation in history, calling for all Hong Kong citizens to pay the utmost concern and to support the refugee children in Syria.
After the outbreak of Syrian civil war, 5,000,000 people are affected and 1,880,000 of them are forced to become refugees, in which half are children. Latest figures show that more than 740,000 Syrian child refugees are even under the age of 11.

Thousands of children have experienced physical upheaval, fear, stress and trauma. Both UNHCR and UNICEF highlight the threats to refugee children from child labour, early marriage and the risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The largest humanitarian operation in history has seen UNHCR and UNICEF mobilizing support to millions of affected families and children.

This year alone, UNICEF has provided nearly 167,000 children with psychosocial assistance and more than 118,000 children with education, ensuring their rights to education are not deprived by the conflict. Besides, UNHCR has registered all one million children, giving them an identity, preventing them from becoming stateless, and provided them with safe shelters.

The crisis is not yet over. The Syria Regional Refugee Response plan, which calls for HK$23.4 billion (US$3 billion), is currently only 38 per cent funded. More support is needed to rescue these vulnerable children.

Facing such large-scale and urgent needs, the UNHCR Sub-Office at Hong Kong SAR (UNHCR HK) and the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF HK) are appealing for additional support from the general public of Hong Kong to address the Syria Crisis:

1. Online donation: You can donate to help the children in Syria through the website of UNHCR (www.unhcr.org.hk) and UNICEF HK (www.unicef.org.hk/syria). The fund raised will be used in responding the critical needs of refugee children in education, health care and other services, supporting the humanitarian operation in Syria.
2. Spreading the needs of children in Syria Crisis: You can share the life stories of the Syrian Crisis through UNHCR and UNICEF HK Facebook pages, to arouse more attention to the Syria Crisis from the public.

UNHCR and UNICEF have also been putting intensified effort to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria, to ensure that children and their families must be safe to leave Syria and borders must remain open so they can cross to safety.

Chief Executive of UNICEF HK, Ms Irene Chan said, “UNICEF and its partners are striving to alleviate the suffering of crisis-affected people. One million child refugees is not just a number. This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from family. We can no longer fail more children.” Head of Office of UNHCR HK, Mr Philip Karani said, “UNHCR HK has actively responded to emergency needs of the Syrian refugees, bringing hope to Syrian children.”

A real story in a million:

Aya (Left), an 8 years-old cheerful girl, fled from Syria to Lebanon two years ago.

Coming to an unfamiliar territory, the family of nine lived in a narrow temporary shelter. Although they received monthly food stamps from UNHCR, the food amount could only meet the demand for more than half month.

When Aya’s elder brother and sister worked in fields, earning HK$31.2 a day (US$4), she had to take care of her 11-year-old elder sister, Libaba, who suffered from Down’s syndrome.

Aya taught her elder sister how to bath, wear clothes and eat, showing great care over her. They became the best friend of each other.

Although Aya’s elder brothers and sisters got opportunities to receive education, Aya was out of school because of wars. The family could not afford the transportation fee of Aya to school as well. Therefore, studious Aya would ask questions when her sisters came back from school. Aya hoped to be a paediatrician in the future and to cure poor children at no charge.

This story is only a tip of an iceberg. With the emergence of the one millionth refugee child, the humanitarian work of UNHCR and UNICEF in Syria should be in no delay and demand further support from the society. UNICEF also supports local NGO partners in providing psychological interventions, speech therapy and physiotherapy in a child friendly centre for Syrian children and their families.

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