2017 was the deadliest year for children in Syria since the civil war began nearly a decade ago, United Nations officials said.
Two U.N. officials told a high-level panel discussion examining rights violations more than 900 Syrian children died in fighting last year, making it the deadliest year for children caught in the conflict.
“In 2017, documentation of violations of children’s rights during the conflict — by all sides — was the highest since the beginning of the conflict,” Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, told the Human Rights Council.
At least 910 children were killed and 361 were injured in 2017, with a large majority of child casualties occurring in Idleb, Aleppo and Deir-ez-Zor.
Saying the numbers are only the “tip of the iceberg,” Moumtzis added that children make up to 40 percent of the 13 million people who require life-saving aid in Syria.
The U.N. official also said he was concerned over continued reports of child military training.
“In 2017, 25 percent of cases involved boys and girls under the age of 15 — of course considered a war crime and prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Moumtzias said.
“Growing up in conflict, they may have little choice or alternative; they may also have no way out, as killing or detention by the other side may await them.”
Kate Gilmore, U.N. deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said girls may be subjected to sexual violence, including rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery by armed groups.
“The scale, scope and gravity of crimes committed against children are shocking,” she said. “Widespread human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law affecting or targeting children are being committed by the Syrian authorities. And perpetrated too by armed groups.”
Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, nearly 500,000 people have died and over 11 million have been displaced.
By Sara Shayanian