A new report released this weekend by the UNHCR, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency, details the alarming impact the ongoing crisis in Syria is having on millions of children who have been displaced and lost family members.
Of the 2.2 million refugees who have fled the war-torn country in the last three years, more than half — over 1.1 million of them — are children, most under the age of 12. They have sought refuge in neighboring countries, particularly Lebanon, which hosts approximately 385,000 displaced Syrian children, and Jordan, which hosts 291,000 others.
Many of those children are also fleeing on their own. Some 3,700 children have registered with UNHCR as separated or unaccompanied refugees, meaning they left Syria either without both of their parents or any caretaker at all. In some cases, these children lost one or both parents to an attack or to detention, but in other instances the children were sent off by their families for their safety or to avoid military conscription.
The influx of refugees has also put a strain on those countries that have welcomed them. In Lebanon, which has a population of just over 4 million, more than 800,000 refugees have crossed the border from Syria in the last two years. And in Jordan, with a population of around 6 million, 550,000 Syrian exiles have entered the country. The economies and infrastructures of these host countries are beginning to show signs of buckling under the weight of so many new residents, according to the UN report.
The report highlights another, deeply human side to the Syrian crisis that has largely remained hidden behind headlines about the country’s use of chemical weapons. A separate study commissioned by humanitarian organization Save The Children earlier this year found that amongst those who have remained in their homes within Syria, as many as 10 million people are in need of emergency food support. And despite the growing number of refugees, international aide to help Syrian exiles is lagging far behind what is needed to adequately care for the millions displaced.