5 June 2019 - Syria

No funeral for children killed in Idlib as death toll rises

A young girl who has fled fighting in Idlib carries a baby in the temporary camp where she is staying

Families in Idlib are having to forgo funeral proceedings for children killed in the latest offensive as they try to escape ongoing violence in the area. Save the Children’s partner have now confirmed the circumstances of the deaths of 61 children killed in a wave of continued attacks in civilian areas in the North West over the last two months.

Save the Children’s partner Hurras network have documented the recent child deaths which were caused by bombings and shelling. Of the 61 children killed:

  • 11 children were killed whilst at school.
  • 25 children were at home.
  • Ten children were at the market place.
  • Two children were in a displacement camp.
  • One child who was already in hospital was killed by a bombing that hit the building.
  • A further 11 children were killed in a range of other locations.
  • One child was reported to have been killed after coming into contact with a hidden Unexploded Device dropped in an earlier shelling.

The escalation of violence in North West Syria has displaced more than 300,000 people since the beginning of May as the fighting heavily impacted civilians and civilian infrastructure and impacted humanitarian operations. According to the UN, the number of deaths among civilians is between 160 and 300.

Save the Children’s partners in Idlib tell us of a devastating succession of families who have not had respite enough from the shelling to hold funerals for their children.

“Families are severely distraught. One father told us he was ‘lucky’ to find two dug up graves to bury his daughters before he had to flee with the rest of family. They are making heart-breaking compromises. Not only are they suffering the devastating loss of a child but they do not even have the time for a proper funeral as they desperately try to escape the violence and protect the rest of their children.” Sonia Khush, Syria Response Director, said.

As reported by the UN, 35 schools have been damaged in northern Hama and southern Idlib governorates since the start of May. More than 65% of schools in Hama have been forced to close along with 18 community support centres for women and children, according to Save the Children’s partners in the area. This has left an estimated 70,000 school aged children in need of educational support.

In an earlier report on Paediatric Blast Injuries Save the Children highlighted the ways children are uniquely and disproportionately impacted by blast injuries.

“As this horrifying death toll indicates, children’s bodies are extremely vulnerable to the impact of explosive weapons. We are urging all parties to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law and human rights law, and to place the protection of civilians first. Schools, hospitals and other vital civilian infrastructure must be protected from attack.

“The children of Syria have played no part in this conflict, and yet they continue to suffer. Appropriate mechanisms must be in place to ensure all perpetrators of grave violations against children’s rights in Syria are be held to account.” Khush said.

Save the Children is supporting its partners on the ground by dispensing life-saving food and essential supplies to families escaping the violence.

Save the Children recently launched the Stop the War on Children Charter to ensure children are protected during conflicts. The charter forms the basis for a safer future for the 420 million children currently living in conflict affected areas such as Syria, where children face severe and multiple violations of their rights.


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-       Antonia Roupell in London Antonia.roupell@savethechildren.com +44 7855957573

-       During out of office hours, please contact media@savethechildren.org.uk +44 7831 650 409


Notes to Editors:

  • Save the Children’s partner Hurras confirmed the circumstances of the deaths of 61 children, killed in the last two months.  
  • According to the UN, since the end of April, at least 100 civilians have been killed or injured in North West Syria. The death toll of children is based on reports from field monitors of Save the Children’s partners.
  • North West Syria hosts one of the largest internally displaced populations inside the country, with half of the population having been uprooted at least once, and some being displaced up to seven times over the course of the conflict. Most now live in overcrowded camps and shelters in rural areas with nowhere left to flee to. Food, water and medicine are in short supply, alongside essential services like schools and healthcare.
  • Save the Children supports Syrians in the North West of the country through a network of partner organizations on the ground. Their work includes running primary healthcare clinics and a maternity hospital, vaccination and food security programmes, supporting a network of schools and carrying out child protection work.
  • Save the Children recently lauched a Paediatric Blast Injury briefing, highlighting the ways children are uniquely impacted by explosives in conflict: https://www.savethechildren.net/sites/default/files/CH1325872%20%281%29.pdf
  • The Stop the War on Children Charter, was launched by to ensure children are protected during conflicts. The charter forms the basis for a safer future for the 420 million children currently living in conflict affected areas such as Syria, where children face severe and multiple violations of their rights. https://www.savethechildren.net/article/save-children-calls-perpetrators-violations-against-children-conflict-zones-across-world-be
  • There are six ‘grave violations’ of children in conflicts as defined by the United Nations (UN). They are used to monitor, document and report on violations committed against children in conflicts around the world. They include:
    • Killing and maiming of children;
    • Recruitment or use of children as soldiers;
    • Sexual violence against children;
    • Abduction of children;
    • Attacks against schools or hospitals;
    • Denial of humanitarian access for children.

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