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A young girl, with hair matted by mud, at the Atmeh refugee camp in Syria.Times image by Tom Pilston

Haunting...Horrifying...Heartbreaking...and in need of Help! Today, 20th June, is World Refugee Day so this is a gentle reminder for those of us more fortunate to give back where we can...

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

UNHCR, the United Nations relief agency, claims that usually more than half of any refugee population are children.

This image of the young girl in the Atmeh refugee camp in Syria on the cover of The Times, 13th November 2012, is haunting, horrifying, heartbreaking and she is simply one in many in need of humanitarian help. The ongoing violence amidst the brutal civil war in Syria is taking a toll on children and their families. More than 274,000 Syrian refugees are now living in three neighboring nations, the UNHCR reported at the end of October 2012. Nearly 102,000 of them are in Turkey, another 71,592 are in Lebanon and 58,622 more are in Jordan.

Please click here to donate to UNICEF to help meet the urgent needs of children.

As refugee crisis escalates, Syrian children in Jordan need urgent support

AMMAN, 27 August 2012UNICEF is urgently appealing for additional funds to meet the emergency health, protection, water and sanitation needs of the growing numbers of Syrian refugee children and their families arriving in Jordan, which has followed an open-border policy since the onset of the crisis in March 2011.

Some 17,000 people – half of them children – are sheltered at Za’atari refugee camp in the north of Jordan, but numbers are increasing daily with hundreds of new arrivals from Syria. “We expect to have 70,000 people at Za’atari camp by the end of this year,” said UNICEF Jordan Representative Dominique Hyde. “We must act now because it is children who continue to suffer most.  More funding is urgently required to scale-up our emergency response activities.” Conditions at Za’atari camp are harsh, with scorching temperatures, no natural shade, and frequent sandstorms that rip through the camp. UNICEF is appealing for $54 million USD to cover the emergency needs of Syrian refugees sheltering in Za’atari camp and surrounding communities in Jordan.

UNICEF is leading the emergency water and sanitation response, trucking in water to provide 50 litres per person a day. With new families continuing to swell the camp population, a well is being constructed as a more sustainable water source.

As the number of children increases, so does the risk of disease outbreaks. UNICEF is partnering with the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization to immunize children under five, many of whom have missed routine vaccinations.

UNICEF is also supporting distressed children who need special care after experiencing extreme levels of violence with 10 Child Friendly Spaces where children can play, learn, restore their routines and receive psychosocial support. UNICEF is also identifying and caring for children who fled Syria without their parents or family. “Children fleeing violence in Syria are at risk of suffering long-term distress without appropriate care,” said Hyde. “Right now, the Child Friendly Spaces are sufficient for 2,500 children in Za’atari. In just a few months, we expect as many as 35,000 children will be at the camp, so we urgently need to provide additional safe places and other support to protect these children who have already suffered so much.”

Syrian Children Most Common Sight at Refugee Camp

By KHALIL HAMRA Associated Press. ATMEH, Syria November 8, 2012
Most of the displaced people in the tent camp rising near this village on the Syrian-Turkish border are children. All have fled the violence of Syria's civil war farther south. Many have seen violence themselves. Some have lost relatives, and most have trouble sleeping and panic when they hear loud noises or airplanes, their parents say. Fighting between the forces of President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to topple him has sent hundreds of thousands Syrians streaming into neighboring countries. Rebel organizers say the Atmeh camp was born of necessity some three months ago when Turkey began drastically reducing the number of Syrians allowed to enter that country, leaving tens of thousands stranded in the border area. Turkey says more than 112,000 Syrian refugees are sheltering in Turkish camps.
November 5, 2012 - a Syrian girl who fled with her family from the violence, rests at the displaced camp in the Syrian village of Atmeh, near the Turkish border.

The camp, which is run by local rebels who distribute tents and food provided by a smattering of aid organizations, is home to more than 5,000 people, mainly families with multiple children who were blocked from entering Turkey.  Children are the most common sight among the tents: foraging for wood for camp fires, carrying jugs of water from the tankers brought in by the rebels, and, at times, playing. Their faces give hints of how they've been affected by the collision of childhood and a civil war that anti-regime activists say has killed more than 36,000 people since March 2011. One girl stares straight ahead, her expression dark. Another places one hand on her hip while raising the other above her head, flashing a V-for-victory sign. Yet another defiantly holds out a fist while clutching a teddy bear. The organizers' woes are many: new arrivals come every day, there aren't enough tents, and families often get half as many of the modest meals as they should. "You can watch the news and know where they are coming from," said a camp organizer  "The areas that are being bombed."