The United Nations, in declaring October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence, sought to reassert the universal importance of non-violence while promoting a culture revolving around peace, tolerance and understanding.
Last week's events in Syria, however, speak to a conflict transformed into a humanitarian crisis that has worsened with time. In eastern Aleppo alone, at least 96 children have been killed and 223 others injured.
Such circumstances make it increasingly harder to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid. Below are stories, told through pictures, that depict the dedication of the teams from UNICEF and its partner organizations over the last week. What they show is courage, determination and hope amidst all of the horror.
On September 22, a mere few days after a UNICEF humanitarian convoy carrying food and health aid for the Aleppo region's 50,000 residents was attacked, UNICEF and other organizations resumed transporting emergency supplies and assistance to hard to reach areas.
UNICEF delivered medical and nutrition supplies to around 7,000 people in the besieged community of Moadamiyeh. Some 20,000 children live in this city located about 11 kilometres from Damascus. This humanitarian convoy was the first one to reach this community in the past two months.
On September 25, a new convoy in which UNICEF was involved brought emergency assistance to 60,000 people in four Syrian cities: Madaya and Zabadani, located near Damascus, and Foah and Kefraya, two cities in the country's northwestern zone.
This was the first time since April that humanitarian agencies were able to reach these four cities. While in Madaya, UNICEF assessed the extent to which children were malnourished.
"We had not been able to make our way into Madaya since April. I was there in January when the children were already starving, and watched a young man die in front of us, in spite of our efforts to save him. I had no idea what we would find this time..." Dr. Rajia Sharhan, UNICEF Nutrition Officer.
On September 28, the violence continued to escalate in eastern Aleppo and two hospitals were the targets of air strikes during the night.
"Children who had been hit were lying on the floor in hospitals, not treated because of too few doctors and medical supplies. A doctor told us that his clinic saw so many injured children each day that they were forced to let the more critically injured die," said Kieran Dwyer of UNICEF Syria.
Last week's harrowing attacks also caused damage to water pumping stations in the eastern sector of Aleppo. Over 100,000 children were forced to drink contaminated water, some of it from depressions in the ground where liquid from the broken pipes had accumulated.
When children are without clean, safe water, their risk of disease is heightened, aggravating suffering that is the daily reality of many children since the war began. UNICEF and its partners are working tirelessly to provide the region's children and families with drinking water and calls on all parties to the conflict to stop attacks to essential water infrastructure.
Shahed, five years old, has erected a tent with her friend in the western sector of Aleppo. One-third of all Syrian children have lived in a war zone their entire life. All in all, the conflict touches 8.4 million Syrian children, which includes 80 per cent of the country's children (still in Syria and those who fled). Half of Syrian children are not accessing education opportunities across Syria and the region. Others are being forced to work or are enlisted as child soldiers by various parties to the conflict.
UNICEF is still determined to bring desperately needed aid to the millions of children in Syria, including those in Aleppo.
With this in mind, we strongly urge all of the parties involved in this conflict to honour their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, and protect the Syrian civilian population and civilian infrastructures as well as ensuring unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to the people who so desperately need assistance, regardless of where they are in the country. There is a desperate need for a humanitarian pause to the fighting in Aleppo, ceasefires and constant humanitarian access necessary to save lives and save hope.
You can also help us in our efforts to provide life-saving support to children caught in this crisis.
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The plight of Syrians besieged in the town of Madaya prompted an international humanitarian response (AP Photo) Hunger, starvation, and extreme malnourishment present existential threats to millions of Syria's most vulnerable people. The young, the elderly, and the infirm are all particularly susceptible to the effects of malnutrition, which can stunt the growth of children, and exacerbate chronic medical conditions. Unicef deputy director Lily Caprani told HuffPost UK about the effects long-term malnourishment are having as the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year. She said: "There’s hunger in the short term, and then malnutrition over the longer term severely and in some cases irreversibly damages children’s development, so a child who at the age of two or three is undernourished can physical stop growing. “Unfortunately there are some cases where that cannot be undone. We’re trying to stop getting it to that stage." Unicef continues to work in Syria, and it estimates it has helped the majority of those who need help in accessible areas. That still leaves as many as two million out of reach of aid, however. Towns which are besieged by fighting are particularly difficult to access. In one example, the situation in the Syrian town of Madaya, north west of Damascus, had become so dire that the UN estimated 400 residents needed to be immediately evacuated to receive life-saving treatment. Their conditions related to extreme malnourishment and starvation, as well as medical conditions.
Syrian boys play with snow following a storm in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 5 Exposure to the elements is become a concern for aid agencies operating in and around Syria. Harsh winters bring snow, ice, and chilling winds - making for harrowing conditions in houses lacking electricity and the refugee camps bordering on vast, desolate landscapes. "One of the key things we worry about every year in that on top of everything else, we now have extreme cold," Lily Caprani of Unicef UK says, "Although we're doing everything we can to them, they're living in tents, in containers." The organisation is leading a campaign to keep children warm this winter with hats, gloves and scalfs. "Many of the refugees in... countries such as Jordan and Lebanon live in terrible conditions and are struggling to find warmth as temperatures fall," Robert Mardini, director for the Near and Middle East with the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Al Jazeera. "They live with the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow will bring, or even if they will ever make it back home one day."
Syrians searching for survivors in the rubble of destroyed buildings following the barrel bomb-attacks of Syrian air forces on February 2, 2014, in Aleppo, Syria. Barrel bombs continue to plague Syrian cities. The improvised devices are thrown from transport helicopters, without the ability to hit specific targets. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the number of civilains killed by Syrian regime barrel bombs outnumbers those slain by the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Jeremy Binnie, Middle East editor for IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, told HuffPost UK that the bombs were developed due to either a lack of weaponry or aircraft around a year or so into the current conflict. He said: “While early ones appeared to be similar in size to oil barrels, the ones that have been seen generally have a smaller diameter. “They were first seen in the summer of 2012. “They are a way of turning the Syrian air force’s Mi-8/17 helicopters into attack aircraft as the improvised bombs can be rolled out the rear cargo doors.” “The bombs are capable of destroying buildings and killing people, but almost certainly have less explosive power than mass-produced aircraft bombs of similar size."
A Russian bomber drops bombs on a target. Russia has unleashed another barrage of airstrikes against targets in Syria Airstrikes from foreign forces continue to pose a threat to civilian life - however unintended this may be. In December, at least 26 people were believed to have been killed following US-led airstrikes attacking suspected Isis positions. The Guardian reported Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying Isis is in control of Al-Khan but is only on its outskirts, “which is why all of the deaths were civilians”. The US military command said it was investigating the claims. Britain's Royal Air Force, which received Parliamentary authority to commence airstrikes last year, says it is able to say no civilians have died as a result of its recent airstrikes in Syria which are planned meticulously to prevent collateral damage.
A health worker marks the thumb of a Syrian child after giving him polio vaccine (File Photo) Dirty water and the resulting disease pose a continued threat to Syrians living in increasingly unsanitary conditions. Unicef is one of a number of aid agencies working to mitigate the risks, but even it admits that millions of Syrian children and adults who continue to be at risk in areas that cannot be easily reached. While the threat continues to be high - disease is one of the areas of success for agencies trying hard to prevent a public health disaster dovetailing with the fierce conflict. Lily Caprani of Unicef told HuffPost UK: "We’re making sure children and the vulnerable are immunized against waterborne disease, because we know they are going to be exposed to disease so we make sure they’re going to be protected. “This can help prevent a public health disaster. One of the very few pieces of good news is that you would expect the resurgence of disease and infections we would normally not see. “But because we’ve managed to immunize we’ve prevented this. There have been no new cases of polio since January 2014 and that’s short of a miracle. "It’s relatively cheap to do - it doesn’t cost a lot of money and it prevents the snowball effect of a public health emergency." Nonetheless, the shocking state of health uncovered at the besieged town of Madaya in January points towards localised medical emergencies being commonplace in some areas in the country.
A visitor looks at photographs in the 'Caesar's Photos: Inside Syria's Secret Prisons', a collection of photographs smuggled out of Syria last year Torture and execution remain a threat to civilian life throughout Syria, with hundreds allegedly killed at the hands of President Assad's regime alone. Syria has systematically tortured and executed 11,000 of its citizens in the three-year war, according to a report by former war crimes prosecutors, who compared the bodies they saw to images of Nazi death camp victims. Meanwhile the so-called Islamic State has been adept at publicising its regime's torture and execution, even publishing reports in its own magazine, with countless Syrians and scores of foreigners killed in the now signature orange jumpsuits. In January, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported that an Islamic State militant executed his own mother, after she encouraged him to leave the terror group.
Violence and exploitation resulting from the break down of Syrian society present a real threat to the lives of adults and children alike, whilst kidnapping remains a tactic of fear used by militants. There are countless examples of violence between warring factions spilling over into civilian communities, wounding and killing innocent people. Unicef's experience of conflict emergencies across the world has led it to the conclusion that education can protect children from violence and exploitation. Lily Caprani, UK deputy director, told HuffPost UK: "If children are in education, they’re in a safe space. If children are in a safe environment with safe people, the risks of violence and exploitation are lower. "This protects children from adults who might not have their best interests at heart." Kidnapping by Islamic State militants continues to present a real threat to civilian life. Last year, hundreds of innocent people were taken by the group amid mounting international calls for the release of those abducted.
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