Syria: children caught up in alleged chemical attack

Nesreen* witnessed the attack in Idlib – hear her story.

Save the Children is appalled by what appears to be a series of chemical attacks in Idlib, Syria, yesterday.

The horrific alleged attack has had devastating and deadly consequences for children and families.

Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Director, said: “Doctors at a health clinic run by our partner, Syria Relief, told us they received three children under six years old.

“They were struggling to breathe and barely conscious, with running noses and contracted pupils – doctors say these symptoms are consistent with the use of nerve agents such as Sarin.”

A devastating impact on children

Medics in Khan Sheikhoun told us that nearly a third of the casualties they have seen are children.

A Save the Children health clinic in nearby Maret al Numaan received three cases and transported them by ambulance to hospital. But staff warn that health facilities are overwhelmed and ongoing bombing is making roads treacherous.

A further rocket releasing a currently undetermined chemical substance was alleged to have been dropped in the same area at lunchtime and many families are said to have fled north, desperate to escape a further attack.

Despite the unimaginably difficult conditions inside Syria, we continue to work with brave partners to offer a lifeline to exceptionally vulnerable children.

Donate now to our Syria Crisis Appeal

The UN must respond

Save the Children is calling for an immediate impartial investigation, and an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to agree next steps.

Sonia Khush said yesterday: “If a banned chemical substance is confirmed, this would be in clear violation of international law and a worrying indication that not all chemical weapons have been destroyed in Syria as UNSCR 2118, reached in September 2013, demanded.

“Idlib is home to some two million civilians, including many people who were displaced by the conflict in neighbouring Aleppo and other areas.

“Tomorrow’s meeting of Foreign Ministers and the UN Secretary General in Brussels must address the threat of ongoing assault and brutality faced by people in Idlib.

“We cannot allow events to escalate into the situation we saw in East Aleppo.”

‘The snipers never stop’

Rima* and her family were living in Aleppo. They fled when the bombing started.

Children continue to suffer across Syria, with more than 650,000 people now trapped in besieged areas. Hala*, a teacher in the town of Madaya, says:

“The children have been imprisoned in their own houses for the last four to five months. Anyone who goes outside sees snipers.

“We’ve lost a lot of young people, even children, even entire families… All the houses were being hit with shells or mortars and of course bullets – the snipers never stop.”

Madaya is one of four besieged towns from which civilians are due to be forcibly evacuated this week. But Save the Children does not believe that evicting families against their will should be the solution.

The international community should ensure an end to sieges, and sustained humanitarian access so that vital supplies can get through.

Desperate shortages

As violence escalates in Syria, children are facing increasingly desperate shortages of food and medicine.

In the first three months of 2017, aid convoys were only able to reach 9% of the 4.6 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas across Syria. Around 2.5 million children have been left without help.

Despite repeated commitments to ensure aid is delivered, less is now getting through than a year ago. Convoys continue to be routinely obstructed and denied access, and blocked by renewed violence and bombing.

Even when convoys have got through in recent weeks, vital medicine and surgical supplies are reportedly not being allowed on to the trucks.

Stand up for Syria’s children

At least three million Syrian children have known nothing but war – their nightmare must end.

We’re calling on the government to make sure children caught in conflict are protected.

The bombing of homes, towns and cities must stop, and aid must be able to get through to children wherever they are.

Stand up for children in war: join our campaign now

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*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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