Can the Government of Canada champion the children of Syria and save an entire generation from a horrific future no child deserves? We think it can.
Donor countries, including Canada, are attending a pledging conference today in Kuwait, and will be asked to support education and child protection initiatives as well as immediate life-saving programs for the children of Syria. The Government of Canada has given a strong response to the humanitarian disaster in Syria. We remain confident Canada will continue to support efforts to ensure that this generation of Syrian children is not forgotten
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Approaching its fourth terrible year of conflict and crises, an entire generation of children is being damaged by violence and displacement. Children are coming of age with no thoughts beyond daily survival. These children could be lost forever, with profound long-term consequences for Syria, the region, and the world.
The numbers are alarming. To date, 5.5-million children have been affected by this brutal crisis, including 4.3-million children living inside Syria. Another 1.2-million child refugees are now scattered between Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. We estimate that 3.3-million children have dropped out of school or cannot attend on a regular basis -- a decline that threatens to reverse years of educational progress.
Alarming as these numbers are, they don't tell the whole story. Child labour, early marriage, and recruitment by armed groups have become all too common, practices. Far too many children have witnessed horrific violence, been its victim, or lost loved ones. Far too many have been left to fend for themselves.
As winter grips the region, further deepening the misery of millions of children and diminishing their hopes for a normal life, UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision firmly believe we still have time to prevent a lost generation. By protecting children from violence, offering educational opportunities, building resilience and providing support to heal the hidden wounds of a merciless war, Canada has a vital role to play in empowering the children of Syria to build a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
As key advocates and international organizations come together in Kuwait today, the focus will be building a single, practical strategy to prevent a lost generation of Syrian children. UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision are urging the global community to commit US$1 billion to provide the education, protection, and support Syrian children need to fulfill their potential, and to develop the skills their societies need to create a more sustainable future. This investment could well save a generation.
As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, we need champions to commit to ensuring a better future for the children of Syria. They must speak out loudly and forcefully - calling for pledges to be honored, for additional support to be provided, for the safety and protection of children to be secured, and for greater effort to put an end to the needless suffering of children.
We believe Canada has the capacity to be that very champion the children of Syria so desperately need.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Syrians hold copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, during a demonstration to stop fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and rebels, in Aleppo, Syria, in this Monday, Jan. 6, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center, AMC. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)
Syrians inspect the rubble of destroyed buildings following a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, in this Monday, Jan. 6, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center, AMC. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)
People rush to cross a deserted street in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 7, 2014. (MOHAMMED WESAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Rebel fighters, one holding a weapon, walk in a street on January 7, 2014 in Aleppo, Syria. (MOHAMMED WESAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Smokes ascends after a Syrian military helicopter allegedly dropped one of two barrel bombs over Daraya, southwest of the capital Damascus, on Januray 7, 2014. (FADI DIRANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rebel fighters, one on a pick-up vehicle with weapons, gather in a street of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 7, 2014. (MOHAMMED WESAM/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian boy sells sweets as Syrian civilians and emergency personnel inspect the damage in a street after government forces allegedly shelled the city of Aleppo on January 6, 2014. (MOHAMMED WESAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian civilians and emergency personnel stand on a damaged street after government forces allegedly shelled the city of Aleppo on January 6, 2014. (MOHAMMED WESAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Destroyed buildings making up the souk or market in the old sector of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, which lies in the eastern province of the same name, are seen on January 6, 2014. (AHMAD ABOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrians walk along a severely damaged road in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on January 4, 2014. (AHMAD ABOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian man walks along a street in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on January 4, 2014. (AHMAD ABOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian youth pushes a bicycle as he walks along a severely damaged road in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on January 4, 2014. (AHMAD ABOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrians walk along a street in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on January 4, 2014. (AHMAD ABOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
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