Child Safe Horizons condemns the chemical weapons attacks on civilians in Syria.
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Child Safe Horizons condemns the chemical weapons attacks on civilians in Syria. Along with the rest of the world, we were particularly horrified at the images of babies and children suffering and dying. The victims’ symptoms indicated that the chemical used was a nerve agent or other banned toxic substance. If proven, this amounts to an international war crime.
Then, while survivors were frantically trying to save the lives of children and adults injured in the attack, the hospital where many of the victims were being treated was bombed. Even during times of war, there are rules of engagement. The indiscriminate killing of civilians; the use of deadly chemical weapons banned by the international community; attacks on aid convoys; the use of siege tactics and deliberate starvation of a population; the targeting of hospitals and schools; and torture and mass execution… these are all war crimes perpetrated against the Syrian people.
There is a danger that we may become numb to these outrages, simply because they have begun taking place with increasing regularity. Each time, we hear our outrage echoed in the United Nations General Assembly, and yet – nothing happens. There have been no consequences for these war crimes. No government or individual has been held to account, all parties deny their involvement, and eventually the events fade into the background of other news. Yet while the news stories fade and the United Nations moves on to other issues, the children of Syria will forever live with the images and sounds of war. They continue to live with the memories of their younger sister, mother, father, cousins and friends dying in front of them. Many have suffered disabling injuries. They continue to live without access to adequate clean water, food, shelter and healthcare. They go to sleep each night to the sound of bombing raids, and wake up to even more devastation and death in their neighbourhood. For millions of children, their new reality is life in a refugee camp, or crowded in with host families in Lebanon, or on a dangerous journey to safety across Europe.
As a child protection agency, Child Safe Horizons is angered that yet again, it is the most vulnerable who have become victims of war. With the war in Syria entering its 7th year, an estimated 3 million children in Syria have known nothing but war in their short lives. Against the backdrop of relentless violence, war and suffering, children have fallen victim to other forms of violence and exploitation: Early forced marriage in an attempt to protect girls from being raped and exploited; sexual violence; children being tortured and forced into armed groups; a lack of access to even the most basic education and health services; exposure to hazardous forms of labour; family separation; lack of birth registration, and above all, exposure to significant amounts of emotional stress and trauma.
The damage that has been done – physical, emotional, and psychological – to the children of Syria is incalculable. An entire generation of children may become “lost” to severe trauma which can have lifelong effects.
Child Safe Horizons calls on the Syrian government to stop violating international law immediately. It calls on the government as well as rebel groups to protect civilians from further harm, and allow immediate humanitarian access to besieged populations. Finally, Child Safe Horizons calls on donors and UN agencies to urgently begin providing practical support to civil society groups working with the affected populations. In particular, there is an urgent need for psycho-social first aid for children.
We must do all we can to reach the children of Syria. They have a right to protection, to healing, to be able to laugh and play once again. The suffering of children in Syria demands we take action –harsh words, tears, gruesome photos and headlines will not help them. The children of Syria need us to act now – they can no longer wait. This is not a news story to them – this is their daily reality. We can work to change that reality, but we must act now.