2016 was ‘rock bottom’ for children in Syria, says UNICEF

A Syrian Kurdish child cries as Turkish police search their bags after they crossed the border between Syria and Turkey at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province on September 23, 2014.

More Syrian children were killed in 2016 than in any other year of the six-year conflict, making last year the worst on record for children in the war-torn nation, according to children’s charity UNICEF.

At least 652 children died in the last 12 months, a 20% increase on 2015, the organization said in a damning new report published Monday.

Nearly half of those children were killed in or near school.

The report includes only verified figures, meaning the death toll could be much higher, the report said.

An injured Syrian child waits for treatment at a makeshift hospital in the rebel held area of Douma, north east of the capital Damascus on February 2, 2015.

“I wanted to become a doctor but perhaps I won’t become anything because our school was attacked,” 6-year-old Ahmad is quoted as saying.

“We used to play a lot in the schoolyard but now I’m afraid of coming here.”

At least 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict in 2016 — more than double the number the year before, the report said. Increasingly, children were being used to fight on the frontlines and in combat roles, “including in extreme cases as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.”

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