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Millions of children affected by Syria war a ‘strategic issue,’ says UNICEF director and former U.S. national security adviser

March 12th, 2014
05:37 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The plight of the 5.5 million children now affected by the war in Syria – more than twice the number than just a year ago – is a national security issue, not just a humanitarian one, UNICEF Executive Director and former U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake.

“These are not statistics. These are human beings, and these are children. And this is, the governments should remember, a strategic issue,” Lake told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour from the devastated Syrian city of Homs.

“So many of them have been traumatized by seeing things no child should ever see,” he said. “I fear that they’re going to grow up with more vengeance than reconciliation.”

Why Syria is 'strategic issue'

Without adequate education and counselling, he said, “in the next generation we’re going to see a replication of the same violence and the same problems that will affect both the region and the world.”

“So this is a question not an issue of humanitarian obligations, but also of strategic self-interest for all of these governments, and they need to step back and understand that.”

Fears of vengeance for Syria's children

This week marks three years since the beginning of the Syrian war, and humanitarian organizations are redoubling their efforts to get the world to respond to, and put an end to, the bloodshed.

The UK organization Save the Children said in a new report that some surgical patients are “opting to be knocked out with metal bars for lack of anaesthesia.”

Lake, speaking with Amanpour with from one of the hardest-hit areas of Syria, painted a devastating picture.

Civilians in Homs 'eating stray cats'

“I just now met with two families who got out of the Old City here in Homs,” he said. “It was horrific. They were facing snipers. They had to move around, when they could move around, in tunnels.”

“They were sending their kids out to go and look in abandoned houses to find little bottles of olives, rotten bread, other things that they could eat. They were eating stray cats.”

“And now they have emerged, some of them – although there are still probably around 2,500 or so left in the Old City. And while I was interviewing these families, I could hear the artillery going as they probably hit the Old City again.”

Even now that they are out, he said, they lack the jobs or even official documents needed to survive.

“While I felt pity for them and all they had gone through, even more I felt tremendous admiration for their courage and strength in having survived this. And I think what they need now is support, not simply pity.”

UNICEF says hundreds of thousands of children in Syria have been enrolled in leaning programs, with tens of thousands more refugees outside the country. But UNICEF’s programs are only 8% funded.

“We are doing everything we can, but pray God somehow the world can put a stop to this.”

Can they put an end to it, Amanpour asked.

“I think they must. They can, and they must. Whether they will, will be up to the political will in all the capitals to remember that this is not simply an abstract diplomatic issue. This is an issue of human lives, and the futures of all of these children, and of Syria itself and the region.”

“If these children don’t grow up to repair these wounds, then who is going to?”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Snake Oil Baron

    The world can "put a stop to this" by no longer undermining the rebels and by no longer giving food "relief" to Assad's Baathists which they partly sell in Lebanon and partly distributes to people thought to be loyal to the regime. The only UN provided food which goes to Syria goes through Assad. People who go to fight against his fascism (as many North Americans and Europeans once did when Spain was under a similar fascist power) are arrested on return while people going to fight for Hezbollah are not.

    The West, the Arab states and the world in general is not uninformed about the Syrian genocide. We are prolonging it by propping up Assad and undermining the rebels despite *knowing* this empowers the more radical rebel factions and *knowing* that Assad can not win. We are content to have Iran, Hezbollah and other psychopaths on one side and Sunni men of fighting age (both extremist and idealists) from across the planet on the other, grind themselves down at the "low cost" of prolonging a genocide of many thousands dead and millions displaced and replaced. It's a good deal for a humanity without compassion. The people of the world may lack compassion and morals but we know a bargain when we see one.

    March 13, 2014 at 1:01 am | Reply
    • Tom C

      Undermining the rebels? Is that what the US is doing?

      Oh wait, no, they're sending them weapons and supplies.

      March 15, 2014 at 11:01 am | Reply
    • fredsta

      Such a snaky name for such a well worded and accurate post, Snake Oil Baron!

      You nailed it!

      March 15, 2014 at 11:35 am | Reply
  2. Graffox

    Reblogged this on Graffox.

    March 13, 2014 at 3:15 am | Reply
  3. Carl

    As long as it's Arab killing other Arabs the Arab states are silent and provide zero help. Israel, who is technically in a state of war with Syria, has provided more medical help than all the gulf states combined.

    March 13, 2014 at 4:22 am | Reply
    • philos

      As long as Katar and Sauds keep supporting terrorists they won´t help. Israel is bombing citizens in Gaza..

      March 15, 2014 at 5:39 am | Reply
  4. philos

    sorry not Gaza, Golan .

    March 15, 2014 at 5:40 am | Reply
    • StuffNnonsense

      A very Freudian mistake. Gaza is bombing Israel, Not the other way around. And Israel is not bombing the Golan heights. Last heard of, Hizbollah are trying to ignite the Israeli border with Lebanon.

      March 16, 2014 at 7:56 am | Reply
  5. Ahmad manshur

    Am a ugandan nubian by tribe to mi western powers shld stop disturblisng arab govermnts ,elected ones morever syria was peacefull but wen its pple begn simple demnstrtn western powers begn supptng its oppostn thus fuellng the situatn,saud arabia a country we believe 2 bi orign of islam is supportng outer of syrian government so were is islam and the religion of allah taking us if saudia is involved in the numerious wars in arab world ,to day libya is nt stable ,iraq,syria,afgnstn etc a questn arises have western powers fullfilled ther venture of spreadng democracy or just disturblised peace in da world

    March 15, 2014 at 5:41 am | Reply
  6. philos

    Now look Americans where are yourmoney going! To terrorists in Syria that are killing and traumatizing chilldren. Ask your president who has used sarin. It was American observer who has confirmed that sarin was used by terrorists not Assad.

    March 15, 2014 at 5:43 am | Reply
  7. Humans!

    They are kids. Women of the planet have the responsibility to end wars forever. Men have made a real mess. Leaking radiation, chemicals in the sky, diverting rivers, burning toxic chemicals, and war, their worst accomplishment of all. Yes – women do not have wars, female animals don't have wars, we feed, we nurture, we give birth and we conserve. You want to live, all of you? everywhere? start deferring to the thoughts and opinions of the females around you right now! today. or extinction is where we are going to be within 10 years.

    March 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Reply
    • rofl

      Due to the limitations of technology, you can't really get the full experience of me laughing at you. But I just want you to know, that I am laughing at you.

      Not with you. At you. ^_^

      March 15, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Reply
    • Anciano

      You have no understanding do you? The only reason sin is on earth is because of women. The more we give them a voice the worse things get on earth.

      The worst wars in history all happened AFTER women were given the right to vote. And of course they love to kill unborn fetus's. Get a grip woman, you are as evil as the rest of them.

      The problem in this situation as all others, Godlessness. It has nothing to do with men or women it has to do with sin and openly hating Israel. YHWH warned all the earth not to do such a thing but they won't listen. Now they are paying the price and so are their children. Just as YHWH told us He would do.

      "Therefore I shall make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the Lord of hosts in the day of His burning anger. And it will be that like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with none to gather them, they will each turn to his own people, and each one flee to his own land. Anyone who is found will be thrust through, and anyone who is captured will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished."–Isaiah 13:13-16.

      March 15, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  8. trutstingz

    actually, this is a direct result of their relgion of peace...

    March 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • Bruce

      This is a result of the U.S. supporting terrorists that they tell you they're fighting!

      March 16, 2014 at 3:15 am | Reply
    • Omar

      You do realize that Bashar al-Assad is NOT a Muslim, right?

      March 16, 2014 at 10:02 am | Reply
  9. Sam

    The west sends weapons to these terrorists fighting the syrian government and then call the government a terrorist! THIS IS RIDICULOUS! How many people must die before we see the truth of whats really happening?!

    March 16, 2014 at 3:14 am | Reply
  10. ziggystarlust

    I feel sorry for the cats.. 🙁

    March 16, 2014 at 5:09 am | Reply
  11. JohnathanA

    There are 1.6B muslims worldwide.
    Why can they not stop the insanity with their numbers?
    Answer: These muslims want only one kind of islam and they do not mind these children being brutalized.

    March 16, 2014 at 10:07 am | Reply
  12. sonya

    How can we help the children?

    March 16, 2014 at 11:16 am | Reply
  13. Asif Hussain

    This is because those scoundrel dirty Saudis have been supplying weapons to Syria, with the despotic Qataris. Let us pray for peace. The Arabs really have no education. They have wrecked the entire region, and then built a ruddy big falic symbol of a mecca clock, in Mecca. Le coq sportif. Open Gaza border, the lesser of two evils.

    March 16, 2014 at 11:58 am | Reply
  14. Birthright Owner

    Well we got children traumatized...surprise..surprise...why don't you stop your games CNN and start reporting on that long lost relative of Syria's Assad...Brother from another Mother...and then when THAT sibling gets to Geneva to give DNA it will be all over for USA and allies...all that money invested that has to be liquidated...the Catholic eat that for supper...and choke on it...

    March 16, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  15. prem

    i feeling bad about this things. i mean what happened in Syria. specially children and people

    March 17, 2014 at 2:33 am | Reply
  16. Sal

    Wow I see alot of hatred towards Arabs and Muslims here alot of ignorant people man the world is a messed up place you can see how sick some people are who post on this board

    April 7, 2014 at 12:42 am | Reply
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