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No More Broken Hearts in Syria

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SYRIA
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On Wednesday, Mariam a young refugee from Syria told reporters how happy she was that the Prince of Wales had visited her camp in Jordan. "Something will happen because now someone is taking notice" she said.

Yet as the crisis in Syria enters its 3rd year it is abundantly clear that not enough notice has been taken of a humanitarian crisis that has seen over 1 million people flee their country and that has left more than 2 million children in immediate need of vital help. Despite the magnitude of the crisis a chronic lack of funding is threatening to leave many Syrian children without essential support. Indeed, unless an 80% funding gap is bridged very soon, UNICEF will be forced to scale back on even life-saving interventions, such as clean water and immunisation.

Like Their Royal Highnesses, I was also in Jordan this week spending time with Syria's exhausted and traumatised refugees. What struck me most about my latest visit was how much worse the situation has become since I was last there in October. Jordan is now home to over 347,000 Syrians, over half of whom are children and Za'atari refugee camp is now Jordan's 5th biggest city.

As the numbers increase, so does the need. Indeed an average of 8-10 children are born in Za'atari each day and during my visit we met Syria's youngest refugee. Ruba was just three days old, her mother having fled Syria on foot when she was nearly 9 months pregnant after her house was bombed. It would be tragic if Ruba has to grow up in a refugee camp.

UNICEF with our partners are doing everything we can to try and protect these children and make sure they don't become a lost generation whose one chance of childhood is compromised through trauma, illness and disrupted schooling. They may have lost the chance to grow up in peace and stability, but we are working hard to ensure they do not lose their childhood. In the Za'atari camp we are providing over 3 million litres of water every day, and we are running a school, providing child-friendly spaces and group counselling for the children, but it is no place for a childhood. There is a palpable tension in the air in Za'atari and it is strange to be in a place of such size surrounded by so many children and not see any young boys kicking around a football.

Yet in some ways the children who are now living in camps such as Za'atari are the lucky ones. That so many families have left their homes in favour of this dusty and desolate camp underscores the horrors they have left behind.

In Syria itself there remain a further two million children in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Despite UNICEF's best efforts we are unable to reach every child. Our work is being severely hampered by a chronic lack of funding. Supplies of chlorine for clean drinking water in Syria will only last until the end of this month unless the funds are available to buy more. An immunisation programme planned for April, to reach 2 million, may not reach those who need it. Without these vital supplies, millions of children could be exposed to the risk of life-threatening diseases.

Back in London, I cannot but I hope that Mariam is right and that Royal visit to her refugee camp home might make the world take notice. A seismic shift in public attitudes towards suffering of Syria's children is needed to ensure our work with in Syria is funded. Whilst there the Prince of Wales described the situation he witnessed as "heartbreaking". The situation for the children of Syria's conflict is indeed devastating and urgent action is needed to protect these children from further pain and suffering and to stop more Syrian hearts being broken.

This is a real and immediate crisis for children. We need your help, and we need it now. £5 could provide water for a week for a family in Syria, so please text the word DONATE to 70099 to give £5 NOW or give what you can unicef.org.uk.

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