Aid agencies urge Canada to speak up for children of Syria

Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision call on Government of Canada to take strong stand at Geneva peace talks

TORONTO, Jan. 22, 2014 /CNW/ - Three of Canada's leading humanitarian aid agencies are urging the Government of Canada to do everything in its power to help children and families affected by the Syrian conflict, which will soon enter its fourth year. The presidents of Save the Children, UNICEF Canada, and World Vision are making their call as negotiations begin in Geneva, Switzerland, between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition groups. Canada is represented at these talks by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, and both agencies are asking him to reiterate Canada's support for efforts to help the children of Syria.

Save the Children, UNICEF Canada and World Vision insist that the crisis in Syria has put an entire generation at risk. More than five million children are facing a wide range of threats to their lives, including violence and life-threatening diseases, a lack of access to safe drinking water and inadequate nutrition. Beyond these immediate risks to children are psychological and emotional traumas, which are the hidden impacts of this conflict. These traumas threaten not only the well-being of individual children, but the future of an entire generation.

Quotes:

"Every day in Syria, children are becoming innocent victims of this conflict," said Save the Children Canada's president and CEO, Patricia Erb. "The first item on the agenda at Geneva II must be protecting children. We need the Government of Canada to help ensure that no child or civilian is targeted as an act of war. We have the power to change the lives of the millions affected by this crisis. If we come together fewer children will die - it is that simple."

"Canada must speak up for the millions of children of Syria facing grave danger or we risk losing an entire generation," said David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada. "Canada should use its voice at Geneva II to strongly call for respect for international law by all parties, including an immediate end to the recruitment of children into armed forces and the targeting of schools. No child should go through the violence and fear millions of Syrian children have been subjected to daily."

"Canada has been a strong supporter of efforts to help those in need in this conflict, which has affected millions of children and their families," said Dave Toycen, president and CEO of World Vision Canada. "The Government of Canada must push hard at these negotiations for greater humanitarian access to people who need help within Syria and for more support from the global community to help millions of Syrian refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries."

Fast Facts:

  • In total, more than 11.6 million people are affected by the Syrian crisis. This includes 9.3 million people in Syria (4.2 million children), 2.3 million Syrian refugees (1.2 million children)
  • Since 2013, the number of people who have been forced to leave their homes, but have chosen to stay in Syria, has risen from 4.25 million to 6.5 million.
  • The number of Syrian refugees has quadrupled, going from 660,000 at the beginning of 2013 to 2.3 million in 2014.
  • The protracted nature of the Syrian crisis, along with an economic downturn due to the massive influx of refugees from Syria, has stretched resources of neighbouring countries to the breaking point. This has resulted in 2.7 million people in "host countries" also needing assistance.

Save the Children is the world's leading independent organization for children, delivery programs and emergency response to improve lives in about 120 countries worldwide. Save the Children is responding to the Syria crisis by supporting children and their families in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt by providing food security, health and sanitation supplies and care, and child protection services, such as education and child-friendly spaces.

UNICEF Canada, through its work with the global resources of UNICEF International, continues to scale up life-saving interventions inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, including providing clean water for more than 10 million people, supporting the largest-ever vaccination campaign in the Middle East, and managing acute malnutrition. To preserve the future of Syrian children, UNICEF is also working to reach 3.9 million children with an integrated package of education, child protection and adolescent development programs.

World Vision has worked in the region for more than 30 years and is responding to the needs of people within Syria who are fleeing the conflict and refugees who have fled to Lebanon and Jordan. World Vision is reaching more than 300,000 people in Lebanon, Jordan and within Syria with health services, emergency supplies, clean water, sanitation and child protection support. In Lebanon, World Vision has also established Child-friendly Spaces, which help children return to a normal routine by offering structured activities, games and informal education.

Canadians who wish to learn how they can help those in need in Syria and neighbouring countries should visit the websites of Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision.

SOURCE UNICEF Canada, Save the Children Canada, World Vision Canada

For further information:

For more information, media may contact:

Kirsten Walkom
Save the Children
Tel: 416-221-5501 x233
Cell: 647-631-3862
kwalkom@savethechildren.ca

Layal Horanieh
UNICEF Canada
Tel: 514-288-5134, x8425
Cell: 514-232-4510
lhoranieh@unicef.ca

Bob Neufeld
World Vision Canada
Tel: 905-565-6200, x3265
Cell: 647-622-2045
Robert_neufeld@worldvision.ca