Child refugee crisis in Europe will only grow if humanitarian needs in Syria and the region are not met, warns UNICEF

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NEW YORK, Sept. 10, 2015 /CNW/ - The refugee and migrant crisis in Europe will only worsen if greater efforts are not made to end the protracted conflict in Syria and address the humanitarian needs of the millions affected by the violence, says UNICEF today.

"Every Syrian I spoke to has told me that they would have stayed in their own country if they were able to feel safe, live in peace, and be treated with dignity," said Peter Salama, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. "They risk their lives and the lives of their children to flee to Europe because they have no other option and they see no future for themselves or for their children."

The conflict in Syria has left some 16 million people – almost half of them children – in need of life-saving assistance and protection, including basic health care, safe water and sanitation and education. 

UNICEF reports that some two million children are now out of school inside Syria, while up to five million people living in cities and communities across the country have suffered the consequences of long and sometimes deliberate interruptions to their water supplies in recent months. Across Syria, more than half of public hospitals are only partially functioning or completely out of service according to the World Health Organization.

More than four million Syrians – half of them children – have fled the country since the conflict started nearly five years ago. Latest data from the European Union shows that the largest group of refugees arriving in Europe in 2015 is from Syria – but as efforts are stepped up to address the urgent needs of those making the perilous journeys into and across Europe, considerable support is still required in countries neighbouring Syria. Turkey alone is now home to nearly two million Syrians under temporary protection, more than three times the number at the beginning of 2014 and the highest number of Syrian refugees in any single country. In Lebanon, a country of 4.8 million people, 1.1 million Syrians are being accommodated, while Jordan is hosting almost 630,000 registered refugees.

Despite the enormous challenges facing those affected by the conflict, funding for humanitarian assistance is not keeping pace with needs – UNICEF's appeal for 2015 for programs in Syria and surrounding countries, totaling US$ 903 million, is less than half funded.

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit


Image with caption: "A young girl from Syria holds the hand of an adult while standing in a queue of people waiting to board a train to the border with Serbia, near the town of Gevgelija, on the Greek border. Since July, the rate of refugees and migrants transiting through the country has increased to approximately 2,000 to 3000 people per day, women and children accounting for nearly one third of arrivals. (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at:

For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information please contact: Tiffany Baggetta, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8892, 647-308-4806 (mobile),


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