Syria’s war has killed just over 320,000 people since it erupted six years ago as violence against children in the war-ravaged country was “at its worst” in 2016, a monitor and the UN’s children’s agency said Monday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had recorded the deaths of 321,358 people since the conflict broke out in March 2011 with protests against the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad.
The toll represented an increase of about 9,000 since December, when regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey brokered a nationwide cessation of hostilities.
“There have been fewer people dying in the three months since the ceasefire was put into place,” said Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman.
“The deaths haven’t stopped, but they have been slower in the past few months,” he said as the Syrian conflict nears its seventh year.
The new toll included more than 96,000 civilians, among them over 17,400 children and nearly 11,000 women.
According to UNICEF, cases of children being killed, maimed, or recruited into armed groups were the “highest on record” last year.
“The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s regional director.
“Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being, and future,” he said from the central Syrian city of Homs.
UNICEF recorded the violent deaths of at least 652 children last year, a 20 percent increase from 2015, and more than 250 of the victims were killed inside or near a school.
At least 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, including as executioners or suicide bombers — more than double the 2015 number.
UNICEF said that 2.3 million Syrian children are living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq.
Another 280,000 still live under siege across Syria, with no access to food or medicine, it said.
To cope with increasingly difficult living conditions, families inside Syria and in host nations have been forced to push their children into early marriages or child labor just to survive.
“There is so much more we can and should do to turn the tide for Syria’s children,” said Cappelaere.