Syria – February 22 2018 Syria: Children at risk as fighting intensifies in Damascus Escalating violence in the besieged Syrian city of Damascus has worsened what was already a dire humanitarian crisis for children who have been trapped in the city by government forces since 2013. The relentless aerial bombardment of the past few days, described by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, as ‘hell on earth’ and a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’, poses a grave threat to thousands of children - many of whom were displaced from other parts of Syria and are either homeless or living in unsafe, temporary housing. Many families have been forced to seek shelter underground, where they have no access to food, water and sanitation. This has compounded a food crisis which has already left one in eight children in the region severely malnourished. A loaf of bread now costs 22 times the national average, and emergency aid has been unable to make it safely through the fighting to reach those who need it most. SOS Children’s Villages is urging all parties to the conflict to take immediate action to protect children - innocent parties in the war – from attack. We are also calling for a ceasefire, at least temporarily, so that food, water and medical supplies can reach those children in desperate need. “The intensified fighting in the eastern suburbs of Damascus is exposing children in the region to unacceptable daily perils and long-term trauma. We call on all parties to the conflict to guarantee the safety and protection of children - particularly by allowing humanitarian supplies to reach those in need, and by ending attacks on schools and hospitals.” None of the children under SOS Children’s Villages care in Damascus has been injured in the current siege, and our staff in the area are unhurt. We have been forced to close our temporary care centre in Jaramana, on the outskirts of Damascus, because the current bombardment means we cannot guarantee the children’s safety. The centre offers children whose lives have been devastated by eight years of civil war a safe place to escape from the violence around them. Many of the children who come to us for help have been living on the streets – sometimes with their parents, other times alone - and scavenging for food and plastics they can sell to survive. Most no longer attend school because it is simply too dangerous to do so, and psychological trauma is common. The centre provides food, healthcare, bathing facilities, shelter and recreation, but most importantly, it is a place where children can be children again. Its temporary closure will be greatly felt by the children and families who depend on it.