Ahead of the Geneva II peace talks on Wednesday, UNICEF and our Executive Director, Anthony Lake, have joined other humanitarian organizations and leaders in issuing the following open letter urging the protection of Syria’s children:
With the parties in Syria’s conflict meeting in Geneva tomorrow, we believe the time has come to urgently focus on the plight of children. Over 11,000 Syrian children have already lost their lives. From the shelling of residential areas to attacks on schools and hospitals, children are being targeted. More than 4 million children have been forced to flee their homes, including over a million who have fled the country altogether. Many are traumatized, hungry, and in urgent need of shelter and protection. Scandalously, aid cannot reach the children who need it the most. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in conflict zones and are receiving little or no humanitarian assistance at all.
As they arrive in Geneva, we urgently call on the parties to the conflict not to target children, and to commit to a three-point plan to protect them:
- Do not prevent life-saving aid from reaching children.
- Do not target, or allow military use of, schools or health facilities.
- Do not use explosive weapons in populated areas.
Every child in Syria who is hurt, or killed, or loses a loved one, represents yet another failure by the international community. We hereby commit to becoming champions for Syria’s children, speaking out for their rights at every opportunity. An entire generation is being lost to violence. All of us bear a responsibility to save these children.
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Laureate
Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF
António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme
Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict
Mark Malloch Brown, former United Nations Deputy Secretary General and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council
Louise Arbour, President and CEO, International Crisis Group
David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee
Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International
Kevin Jenkins, President and CEO, World Vision International