"Living hell" of Syria could force millions more from country

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Providing drinking water to communities affected by siege-like conditions is one of UNICEF's biggest challenges. Photo: UNICEF/Bassam Khabieh

Children in Syria are in the middle of a so-called "living hell" and it "stands to reason" that millions of families will continue to flee the conflict to neighbouring countries and beyond, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, said Friday.

Dr Peter Salama, who heads the UN agency's response in the Middle East and North Africa, said that conditions are deteriorating daily in Syria after nearly five years of fighting between forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad and rebel militias.

Millions of people are living under siege, according to the UNICEF representative , who said that aid workers are starting to see cases of severe malnutrition in youngsters for the first time in living memory.

Daniel Johnson has more.

While Europe focuses on the spreading refugee crisis, UNICEF's Dr Peter Salama said that it's important not to forget that life within Syria is nothing short of a "living hell".

Dr Salama, who's UNICEF's chief coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, described how millions of people face siege-like conditions and millions more are displaced.

Water is increasingly scarce and for the first time in living memory, UNICEF has seen the emergence of severely malnourished children.

Where it's still possible to go to school, one in five children have to cross a front line to do so, Dr Salama said.

And as Syria descends from what he described as a "failing state to a failed state", the UNICEF representative said that huge numbers of civilians could seek sanctuary abroad.

"There are millions and millions of displaced people in Syria…and if people don't have access to water, to healthcare and education, then it certainly stands to reason that there could be millions and millions more refugees leaving Syria to surrounding countries and ultimately Europe and beyond."

Dr Salama said one of the most important UNICEF projects is water provision, providing millions of litres a day to Aleppo and other parts of the country where warring factions are using siege tactics against civilian populations.

Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan already host around four million refugees, which is around 10 times the number of asylum seekers in Europe currently, UNICEF said.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’08″

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