Unicef ambassador Rea launches appeal
STEPHEN REA, the actor and Unicef Ireland ambassador, is asking the public to donate money to help the children of Syria. “These are our children. They’re not just far away. We have to look after them,” he said.
Mr Rea joined Unicef Ireland executive director Peter Power to launch the children’s organisation’s emergency appeal as the violence continues to affect the lives of more than one million Syrian children.
The latest estimates from the United Nations are that within Syria 2.5 million people are affected by the conflict, 1.2 million have been displaced and more than 17,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed since the crisis began.
Unicef is appealing for urgently needed 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. Mr Power said the organisation was increasingly concerned with the combination of escalating conflict and violence within Syria and its effect on the children. “About 180,000 people are classed as refugees and they are just the ones that are registered,” he said.
“In response, Unicef is increasing child protection services in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.”
Almost half of those displaced from their family homes are children and 30,000 of the children are under five years.
“Reports on the ground say that disease is beginning to take hold, particularly diarrhoea which is dangerous for young children. This is a long, protracted crisis and children are victims in a situation they have nothing to do with it,” said Mr Power.
“The crisis in Syria has unfurled slowly – unlike Haiti or a tsunami for example – but it doesn’t make it any less worrying. Children are witnessing horrific, violent scenes and need psycho-social supports to prevent lasting psychological damage,” he said.
Mr Power said he expected the situation would get worse before it got better. “Right now, Unicef is on the ground providing protection for children or those who have been separated from their families, but we need more money,” he said.
Mr Rea said he became involved in the appeal as it was a “no brainer”. “I was in Mozambique in 2005 and the problem there was mainly HIV, Aids and malaria,” he said. “The crisis in Syria is more frightening and there’s no way of knowing how it can end. Shocking cruelty has been shown to children and all Unicef can do is sweep up after it. People here are hurting economically but we have got to get some money together for this campaign. Inevitably, people get on with their lives but this is a cause worth supporting because it’s terrifying. We have to put our hands in our pockets.”
Syria contribution: Extra €1.5m for agencies
Ireland is to contribute an extra €1.5 million in aid to UN agencies and partner organisations working with Syrians caught up in the escalating violence in their home country, Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello said yesterday.
Mr Costello made the announcement during a visit to the UN-run Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, which is hosting thousands of Syrians who have fled across the border.
The extra funding will bring Ireland’s total contribution to address the humanitarian crisis arising from the Syrian conflict to more than €2 million.
Speaking after his visit to the camp, where he met men, women and children forced to flee their homes, Mr Costello said Syria and its neighbours were facing “an enormous and growing humanitarian crisis” due to the continuing violence.
“There are over 2.5 million people in need within the country and over 170,000 refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Lack of funds is the main factor hampering the humanitarian response,” he said. “The funding I announced today will enable our UN partners and aid agencies to scale up their assistance to the millions of vulnerable Syrians whose lives are at risk due to the escalating conflict.”