A child eats at a temporary camp for those who have fled fighting in Idlib, Syria, May 2019. Over 180,000 people have escaped an upsurge in violence in Idlib over the last few weeks. Credit: Save the Children.

Thousands of Families—Including 80,000 Children—Forced to Flee Escalating Violence in Northwest Syria

At least 38 children have been killed since April 1

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (May 20, 2019)— Thousands of families have fled from northern Hama to villages and towns close to the Turkish border, taking refuge in fields and on the sides of the road as overcrowded camps populations quadrupled in some areas, Save the Children said today.

Airstrikes and shelling targeting parts of northwest Syria have damaged 18 health facilities that serve more than 200,000 people and killed four health workers, according to the United Nations. Most medical facilities in the area have suspended their activities and those that continue to function are under pressure to respond to growing needs.

At least 38 children have been killed and 46 were injured in shelling on northwest Syria since April 1. Working with its partner in northwest Syria, Hurras Network, Save the Children has learned that nine children died at school, 11 children died at home, seven children died at the market, two children died in a camp and one child died in the hospital.

Twelve of the 38 children died in the most recent escalation of violence that has displaced 180,000 people, including 80,000 children.

More than 65 percent of schools in Hama have been forced to close, according to Save the Children’s partners in the area. The escalation in violence came during the final exams for the school year, stopping 250,000 students from finishing their required end-of-year tests. They will subsequently lose a full school year.

Hasan*, 9, lives in Idlib. He fled with his family after his school was bombed and one of his friends was killed. He’s now sheltering with his family in an orchard.

“We were in the middle of the day when the bomb was dropped so we went running.  We were afraid and the ground below us was shaking,” said Hasan.

“The teacher was telling us to get out... and my brother came as well... the head teacher was shouting loudly and the ambulance came and took the injured people and their parents were crying.”

“It is illegal to target civilians in conflict, and all warring parties have an obligation to protect them from attack,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria Director.

“Entire families of up to eight people are loading everything they own on the backs of small pickup trucks, and are driving north, not knowing where they will sleep next. We have seen this happen over and over in eight years of conflict in Syria, in which civilians are paying the highest price.

“We are calling on all sides to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law. Appropriate mechanisms must be in place to ensure perpetrators are held to account, including for all grave violations against children. Schools, hospitals and other vital civilian infrastructure must be protected from attack. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of explosive weapons, and warring parties should make a particular effort to protect them.”

Save the Children is supporting its partners on the ground by dispensing lifesaving food and essential supplies to families escaping the violence.

In response to the acute needs of children suffering devastating injuries caused by blasts of all kinds of explosive weapons, this month Save the Children distributed pediatric manuals to doctors in northwest Syria. The manual, the first of its kind, provides guidance for medics in the field, and is designed to save children’s lives. It includes step-by-step instructions that cover situations ranging from resuscitating children on the battlefield and saving limbs, to rehabilitation and psychological care.

Last week, Save the Children launched its charter to ensure children are protected during conflicts. The charter forms the basis for a safer future for the 420 million children currently living in conflict affected areas such as Syria, where children face severe and multiple violations of their rights.

To learn more about Save the Children’s work in Syria and donate to the response visit www.SavetheChildren.org/Syria.

*Name has been changed

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