UNICEF: Nearly 5 lakh children under siege in Syria
According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the escalating violence in Syria has had an especially adverse effect on children. Nearly 500,000 children are believed to be living under siege in Syria. In a statement, UNICEF said the number had reportedly doubled over the last year. These children are entirely deprived of basic services and a steady flow of humanitarian aid.
Children in Syria
Since the Syrian conflict began five years ago, 3.7 million Syrian children i.e. 1 in 3 of all Syrian children have been born since and their lives have been shaped by violence and displacement. According to UNICEF's estimates, 80% of all Syrian children have been affected by the conflict. UNICEF claims 2.1 million children inside Syria, and 7 lakh in neighbouring countries, are out-of-school.
Children's lives non-existent
500,000 children are spread across 16 besieged areas in Syria. Authorities believe that in eastern Aleppo alone, there are almost 100,000 children who live in abysmal circumstances and have received little to no aid in almost two years. Given the complete absence of safe spaces, children turn to basements where playgrounds, schools have been constructed so that children can continue playing and learning.
The 'Land of Childhood'
The 'Land of Childhood' is an underground basement situated in a besieged Syrian town that keeps them safe from relentless bombarding. The basement playground is formed of interconnected tunnels which was designed by a former architecture student and dug-out by volunteers. There are toy cars on display, ball pit and park, a climbing frame, rocking horses and a Wendy house has been installed.
Solace to hundreds of children
The underground playground sees more than 200 children visit every day. In another besieged area, an underground school allows nearly 250 girls the opportunity to continue learning.
UNICEF calls for help
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, "For millions of human beings in Syria, life has become an endless nightmare — in particular for the hundreds of thousands of children living under siege." UNICEF has called upon all parties to the conflict "to lift the sieges across Syria, and to allow and facilitate immediate, unconditional and sustained humanitarian access to all areas across the country."