(AMMAN, Jordan) — “Childhood Under Fire” may unfortunately be a very appropriate title for a report about what is happening to the youngest victims of Syria’s two-year conflict.
According to statistics compiled by the charity Save the Children, one third of Syrian youngsters have either been kicked, hit or actually shot since President Bashar al-Assad ordered a crackdown on his political enemies in March 2011.
Issuing their findings from Amman, Jordan, Save the Children’s Saba Mubaslat said that children are arriving at refugee camps traumatized by their experiences in Syria with no end in sight to the civil war that has cost more than 70,000 lives and will force a million people to leave their homeland.
Mubaslat says that besides physical abuse, armed groups are turning young boys into porters, runners and even human shields.
Meanwhile, sexual abuse is also prevalent, with stories of many young girls being married off to men because their parents believe it will keep them from being violated.
The Syrian conflict is also causing other brutal side effects of continued warfare, including malnutrition and disease, often from unsafe water supplies.
This bleak assessment coincides with an earlier United Nations Children’s Fund report that claims two million youngsters, close to half of Syria’s under-18 population, are in desperate need of assistance.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Camille Verdier, Steve Visser and Margot Haddad, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN
James Griffiths, CNN
Schams Elwazer, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tim Hume, CNN