Brussels Conference: World Vision warns children are fighting the war in Syria

International children’s charity World Vision has today warned that the recruitment of children into militia is rising in war-torn Syria.

Reports suggest that children as young as 7 are being exploited by armed groups in 90 per cent of sub-districts within Syria.

As European Union (EU) leaders meet in Brussels over the next two days (4-5 April) to discuss the Syria crisis, the charity has called for delegates to put children’s rights at the centre of discussions.

Chris Latif, World Vision's Response Manager for Northern Syria, said: “Many inside Syria feel that the outside world has forgotten them. Syrians think that world leaders and their electorates don’t care about incessant violations of international humanitarian law, a never-ending cycle of misery as families are displaced to ever more dangerous areas.

“The Brussels Conference is a chance to prove that the world does care; but to do that, there must be concrete outcomes which make a tangible difference,” she added.

Violence has become the new normal in Syria, where the largest number of grave violations against children in all six years of the conflict was recorded in 2016. In October and November 2016 alone, children accounted for more than 20 per cent of all civilian deaths in Syria. 750 violations against children were recorded in the first six months of 2016 – maiming, killing and recruitment and use of children as soldiers were the most common offences and were committed by all parties to the conflict.

At least 3.7 million Syrian children have known nothing but war and 5.8 million children inside Syria are in need of protection, experts say. In addition, one in three Syrian children, 2.5 million, are missing out on education; while more than one-third of Syrian children killed in 2015 were killed while at or en route to school. Reports of cases of child marriage and child labour are also on the rise.

In a recent survey, 50 per cent of Syrian children told World Vision they dreamed of peace and returning home to Syria.

“I love Syria, but at the moment, I wouldn’t feel safe there,” said 9-year-old Dalal, now living in a host community in Jordan. “When I was in Syria I feared the airstrikes and the gun-shots.”