Danger warning: Syria’s civil war is resuming. Bloodletting is a fact of daily life. Family members and neighbors go untreated and often without medical assistance. Millions of Syrian children, mostly boys, have lost their childhoods because of the war. Child soldiers and others are used as shields. Often, they end up as victims of war rape and other forms of sexual violence. From hell, maybe there’s a way out.
People are especially vulnerable to coronavirus, because exposure to the virus is such a deadly risk. An outbreak of the virus in Saudi Arabia, started from a man who picked up the virus through his apartment and later via coughing, has killed dozens of people, and there are outbreaks in other Middle Eastern countries. While the World Health Organization says the strain is not transmissible from one person to another, cases have been linked to family members of people infected, including children who could then spread the disease to others at schools and other places.
This risk of worldwide spread of the new virus is why the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is setting up a $57 million stockpile to protect its children from a potentially devastating pandemic, and is hastening its response to an already unfolding crisis in Syria, it announced Monday.
Much of the $57 million will go toward bolstering the vaccination programs and disease surveillance in countries that have been hardest hit by the resurgence of one strain of the coronavirus in Saudi Arabia, UNICEF said in a news release. But the agency also said it will start a case-monitoring system for that deadly strain and assess other public health threats. It will use the stockpile to produce and stockpiles; to get equipment needed to deliver medicine; and other needs, such as to produce vaccines.
The agency is also working to vaccinate Syrian children against the virus that is beginning to unfold in Syria, and it has set up a grant facility to help countries in the Middle East immunize their children. The organization, which has been active in Syria since 2011, says it has vaccinated 11 million children in Syria, and plans to vaccinate as many as 16 million children by 2020.
In the short term, UNICEF said it is working to help children and families cope with the refugee crisis that is developing in Lebanon and Jordan.
More broadly, the agency said it is tackling a crisis in Syria that first emerged in 2013 when the civil war between regime and opposition forces turned dangerous. Two million children are thought to have been forced to flee their homes; more than 1 million have been denied education.