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More Syrian children killed in 2018 than any other year of civil war

Unicef's executive director warns against the 'alarming misconception' that the Syrian war is coming quickly to a close
A Syrian refugee crosses into Turkey with her children at the border on 2 March 2019 (Reuters)

More children were killed last year in Syria than any other year to date, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) said in a statement on Monday.

At least 1,106 children were killed in 2018 as a result of fighting in Syria. While already record-breaking, Unicef highlighted that the figures “are likely much higher”, as the numbers included in the UN report are only those that the organisation was able to verify.

“Mine contamination” accounted for 39 percent of documented deaths and injuries among children last year, the group found. There were also attacks on 262 education and health facilities – another record high.

“Today there exists an alarming misconception that the conflict in Syria is drawing quickly to a close – it is not,” Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore warned in the statement.

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“Children in parts of the country remain in as much danger as at any other time during the eight-year conflict,” Fore continued.

Since January, nearly 60 children have reportedly died while making the nearly 200-mile trek from Baghouz, the last Islamic State (IS) stronghold in Syria, to al-Hol refugee camp in the northeast of the war-torn country, according to Unicef.

Around 65,000 people, including an estimated 240 unaccompanied or separated children currently live in the al-Hol camp, the UN reported.

“As the war enters its ninth year, Unicef again reminds parties to the conflict and the global community that it is the country’s children who have suffered most and have the most to lose. Each day the conflict continues is another day stolen from their childhood,” Fore said.

Unicef did not provide information regarding which forces were responsible for any of the documented deaths.

Fore called on “all parties to the conflict” to prioritise the protection of all children “no matter who controls which area and regardless of the alleged affiliations of a child’s family”.

The director also urged countries to provide “predictable, unrestricted, multi-year funding” to Unicef in order for the group to meet the needs, both immediate and long-term, of children in Syria and across the region.

In December, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights found that last year’s total death toll in Syrian had hit a record low, at 20,000 lives lost in the country.

Syria's war has killed an estimated half a million people and driven about 5.6 million people out of the country. Another 6.6 million people still in the country have lost or fled their homes.