"The Syrian children will forever live with the scars of the conflict….. It is our task to give them a perspective now, one in which the future has at least a silver lining…We can't risk losing a generation".
This extract from the speech made by Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva during a meeting in the margins of the World Bank Annual Meeting in Washington on 10 October 2013, reflects the grave concerns of the humanitarian community regarding the effect that the conflict is having on the children and youth of Syria. At that same event, the concept of a campaign was presented by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and was strongly supported by both co-chairs - the Commissioner and the British Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.
The campaign, created with UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children and World Vision and with the support of OCHA, USAID, DFID, EU, UNRWA, UN Women and others, was launched on 7 January, is designed to drive a new strategy to reach the children of Syria with protection, education and psychological support.
The European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department ECHO and the department responsible for Development, fully supports this joint campaign which is using the power of social media to increase public awareness of all that is at stake in Syria and to engage a legion of champions to prevent a lost generation.
The number of people inside Syria needing assistance is estimated by the UN to be at around 9.3 million with 6.5 million displaced inside the country. Added to this are the over 2.3 million refugees hosted by the neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa - which are valiantly trying to cope with the influx. At least 50% are CHILDREN.
The EU and its Member States have mobilised over €2 billion in assistance since the beginning of the crisis. The allocation from the Commission to this crisis accounts for over €1 billion and includes both humanitarian as well as development funding – with a priority to help the most vulnerable. As a strict vulnerability criteria is applied when choosing the projects to fund, it is fair to estimate that about half of the beneficiaries of the Commission's humanitarian assistance (such as food, medical care , water/sanitation/hygiene, etc.) are children, since they represent approximately half of the population in need.
In addition the Commission is supporting nine partners for humanitarian activities related to child protection and also gender based violence prevention which also affects children under the age of 18. The projects are being implemented in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq for a total amount of €9.35 million. Furthermore, the EU as the recipient of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, decided to dedicate the award to humanitarian projects assisting conflict-affected children through education. Through this initiative called the EU Children of Peace, a project for Syrian children in the Domiz Camp in Iraq was funded to provide protection and child and youth friendly spaces in the camp in 2013. The projects for 2014 include helping the French NGO Triangle to provide primary education for 250 Syrian refugee children between the ages of six and eleven as well as psycho-social care and educational activities for 150 children between 3 and 18. The project will particularly focus on children who live in camps in urban areas where access to services is extremely limited.
The EU's unfaltering commitment is to continue to focus on children and the vulnerable of this crisis, and to consistently advocate for the universal right of education for all children, as well as for the need to strategically address their protection and well-being. This is why the EU supports this very valuable initiative.