THE BLOG
03/02/2016 07:11 GMT | Updated 02/02/2017 05:12 GMT

The London Conference on Syria: A Step Toward the Necessary Leap of Progress

Last week I spoke to a Syrian family who had fled the country and spent three weeks travelling to Europe. Now they were waiting for a train in Serbia to take them north towards Germany. When I asked the father why they chose to leave their home at this particular point in time, I was given an answer that haunts me.

They wanted to stay in Syria, but after their third apartment was hit by bombs they decided to flee, taking with them only what they could carry.

Tomorrow world leaders will gather in London to talk about Syria and to commit resources towards the ever-growing scale of our generation's biggest humanitarian crisis.

This conference must deliver for families such as the one I met last week. It must deliver for children who have seen their home destroyed three times without understanding why.

Approaching the 5-year mark of the Syria crisis, this half-decade of conflict has destroyed life for the children of Syria as they once knew it. A generation of children are now far too familiar with the sounds of artillery. Many are now tragically able to tell the difference in sound from an artillery shell being launched and one about to land.

Starvation is being used as a weapon of war, deliberately putting civilians in the line of fire in violation of international humanitarian law.

As a result millions of Syrians have left their home-country to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Turkey hosting some 2.5m, Lebanon more than 1.1m and Jordan over 630,000. With no end to the conflict in sight, the flow of refugees has continued and with mounting pressures on the regional response, many are being forced to flee further away to Europe. Europe received about 1m refugees in 2015, the single largest group being Syrians.

The London conference is dedicated to supporting Syria and the region, and the need for support can hardly be overstated. It is expected that the conference will raise a large amount of funding for 2016.

This support needs to be translated into quick action, addressing especially the need for protection and education for Syrian children and those in host countries. This is desperately needed.

But as welcome as this funding is, Syria and its children need more than that.

There needs to be an end to the conflict and a return of peace in Syria.

And increasingly as we see that thousands of men, women and children per day are finding the situation in Syria and the neighbouring countries untenable enough to risk their lives in small boats to cross to Europe, there needs to be a scaled up response to meet the needs of refugees travelling through Europe as part of a coherent European approach.

In the last few days we have heard news that some 10,000 children may have gone missing in Europe whilst fleeing conflicts around the world. As one of the richest continents in the world, hosting about the same number of refugees as tiny Lebanon, it is beyond scandalous that this is happening today.

We have to ask ourselves what will happen with a generation of children growing up fleeing their homes to the sounds of gunfire and bombs, rather than growing up with safety in classrooms.

So the London conference is a step in the right direction, but the children of Syria deserve and need giant strides of progress rather than careful steps.

We owe that to the next generation.