Syrian refugee children left to die at roadside, charity told

Save the Children hears refugees' horrifying testimonies of hundreds of injured civilians left to their fate amid warfare

Injured people, including children, have been left to die by the roadside as growing numbers of families flee Syria's civil war, refugees have told Save the Children.

One refugee, Mohammed, who recently arrived in Lebanon after walking five days without food or water, in a group of 5,000, described how people hid behind thin almond trees as they came under fire.

"Hundreds of people were injured on the road, but we couldn't take them all, we had to leave them there," he told the charity. "People died on the journey, and when they did, we could not even bury them because the ground was too hard to dig a hole in. So instead we collected stones to cover their bodies."

The war in Syria, now in its third year, has left at least 93,000 people dead and forced some half a million people to flee last year. In the last six months, the numbers fleeing have more than doubled to 1.6 million, of whom 540,000 are in Jordan. Syrians are also in Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon in large numbers. More than half of all Syrian refugees are children.

The testimonies of Syrian refugees, gathered by Save the Children to mark World Refugee Day, today, bring home the brutality of the conflict within Syria and the desperate plight of civilians.

Amni, a mother of three, described how she was forced to leave behind a 12-year-old boy whose mother had been shot and killed on the first day of their flight from Syria.

"He had been hit with shrapnel on his chest and stomach … his wounds were rotten. Small insects had worked their way into his flesh.

"He couldn't move. But I couldn't carry him, I had to carry my daughter who had been shot. So we had to leave. We left him on the ground, left him to his fate. He shouted after me, begging us not to leave him. But I could not help him."

People are leaving Syria not just to escape the fighting and bombing but also sexual violence.

"Why did we leave Syria? You might think it was the bombs … but no," Roha, now in Lebanon with her six-year-old daughter, told Save the Children. "Although the bombing was very bad, we could live with it, we could survive. What we could not live with was the constant threat of sexual violence. In my street there was a young girl who was hurt like that in front of her father as punishment, and then they killed him."

Motasem, 16, said two of his cousins were killed by snipers. He said students no longer went to school because they feared schools had become targets.

"When children are injured in Syria, they die," Motasem said. "They die because there is no way to rescue them, to move them. We are surrounded. Even if we could have, there was nowhere to take them. So children died from these fragments of bombs."

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "Ultimately the only solution to this crisis is an end to the violence in Syria, but in the meantime we urgently need to be able to reach those trapped inside Syria.. Unless we can, I am afraid we will hear more horrifying stories of children forced into ever more desperate circumstances."

The G8 countries meeting in Northern Ireland declared their support for convening peace talks for Syria, to be held in Geneva, "as soon as possible", and for a pledge of $1.5bn (£960m) in humanitarian aid. But neither move is expected to end the conflict.


Mark Tran

The GuardianTramp

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