A Weekly Update from the UN Department of Public Information
No 49/ 2 July 2014
Grave rights abuses are committed against children in Syria, says UN Envoy
Releasing the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, noted that the conflict and violence in Syria had reached unprecedented levels in 2013. According to the report, released on 1 July, more than 10,000 children are estimated to have been killed since the start of the Syrian conflict, with 2013 seeing an exponential increase in the killing and maiming of children. Numerous armed groups are reportedly recruiting and using children in Syria, including several FSA-affiliated groups, the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), Jhabat al-Nusra (JAN), and other armed groups. The report also documents cases of sexual violence against boys and girls by armed groups, noting that the general fear of sexual violence by parties to the conflict continued to be stated as a reason for Syrian families fleeing the country.
UNICEF condemns the killing of four girls by mortar explosion in Homs
On 1 July, UNICEF expressed its dismay at the senseless deaths of four young girls who were killed by a mortar explosion as they left their school near Homs on 29 June. The four deceased girls, aged 13-14 years old, had been attending a UNICEF-supported school in Al Rastan, north of Homs city. “The loss of children’s lives due to relentless, indiscriminate attacks on civilian-populated areas is totally unacceptable”, stated UNICEF. The agency reiterated its calls for all parties to the conflict in Syria to immediately cease all attacks against civilians and to fully respect the special protection afforded to children under international humanitarian and human rights law.
Civilians in Yarmouk refugee camp suffer severe curtailment of humanitarian access
Despite the signing of a 21 June agreement between the Syrian authorities and armed opposition groups on the resumption of aid deliveries to Yarmouk, no food assistance has been allowed in the Palestinian refugee camp for over a month. In a statement on 1 July, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said it is extremely concerned that its distribution of food to civilian families in Yarmouk last took place on 23 May 2014. “Civilian residents of Yarmouk continue to contend with grave conditions as their basic humanitarian needs and the requirements of humanitarian access remain unmet,” says the agency. UNRWA continues urgently to seek a resumption of its humanitarian activities inside Yarmouk and is appealing to the parties to the 21 June agreement to make this resumption possible.
Aleppo faces power outage and water shortage
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on 30 June it had received reports that some areas of Aleppo City had no electrical power at all, while others have had less than one hour of power per day. The water supply has also been cut off for more than ten days in most of Aleppo, with some areas supplied with water only every five days for an average of six hours. UN agencies and other partners are providing aid so that 16.5 million people continue to have access to clean water through water purification supplies in 14 of Syria’s governorates. In addition, humanitarian workers recently sent medical supplies for more than 138,000 people in Aleppo, including water testing supplies and diarrhoeal disease kits.
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Women and children bear the burden of the conflict- CEDAW
On 30 June, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to hear from them on the situation of women in Syria. Non-governmental organizations said that women and children bore the burden of the conflict and suffered greater levels of violence and discrimination. Early child and forced marriages, as well as polygamy involving young girls were on the increase due to the stress caused by the conflict. They also pointed out that the new 2012 Syrian Constitution lacked the guarantee of gender equality, failed to prohibit gender-based discrimination or even violence and also failed to provide any legal opportunities to challenge and seek the amendment of discriminatory laws, while the Government continuously used the ongoing conflict to justify the failure to promote, protect, respect and fulfil the human rights of women.
Relevant links to UN Secretariat, Agencies, Funds and Programmes on Syria
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OPCW-UN Joint Mission
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