"--IANS/WAM"
Amman, July 8 (IANS/WAM) Well into the fourth year of the Syrian crisis, its impact on children is becoming ever more devastating, newly-released UN data shows.

The United Nation Children's Fund says the data, which accompany a revised UN funding appeal for its response to the crisis across the region, show that 6.5 million Syrian children now need immediate humanitarian assistance, whether inside the country or living as refugees. The number shows an increase of more than two million compared to just one year ago.

These figures confirm the devastating impact this conflict is having on the lives of Syria's children, said Maria Calivis, Unicef regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Children are seeing their homes, schools, health centres and communities targeted and destroyed. Millions of dreams and hopes are being shattered. This is no time for the world to look away.

A 13- year old boy from Aleppo who now lives as a refugee in Turkey, told a Unicef staffer: We left our village to escape the bombing. We drove for three hours to get close to the border and once night fell, we walked another three hours to cross into Turkey. There were many checkpoints along the way. I saw people carrying guns and I was scared.

The violence, coupled with repeated displacement, mounting evidence of disease outbreaks, including polio and measles and a breakdown of vital services like water, sanitation and education, are prompting Unicef to redouble its efforts to reach as many children as possible inside war-torn Syria and in the neighbouring countries.

Inside Syria so far this year and despite huge obstacles due to the violence and access restrictions, Unicef with partners has helped ensure the availability of safe water for nearly 17 million people, as well as supporting the vaccination of 2.9 million children against polio - part of an unprecedented regional immunisation campaign reaching 25 million children.

Meanwhile, as part of efforts to meet the needs of children directly affected by the conflict, Unicef has provided 114,000 children with education materials and 34,000 children with psychological support.

But lack of funding threatens Unuicef's ability to continue providing vital assistance to children; the agency has a gap of $487 million to cover its emergency programmes for children inside Syria and in neighbouring countries by the end of 2014.

We are very grateful to our donors who have been extremely generous. But without fresh resources, our operations - including life-saving water and sanitation interventions for refugees in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan - will inevitably be interrupted and some might be completely stopped, said Calivis.

--IANS/WAM

ab/vm


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