Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the killing of hundreds of civilians in the Syrian town of Daraya, and called for an immediate investigation into the incident.
“The Secretary-General strongly condemns this appalling and brutal crime,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York. “It must be investigated immediately in an independent and impartial manner, and those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held accountable.”
According to media reports, opposition groups claimed more than 200 bodies had been found in Daraya, on the southwest outskirts of the capital, Damascus, after Syrian Government troops stormed the town on Saturday, in what Syrian state-run television described as a counter-terrorism operation. Activists have claimed that most of the victims were civilians.
“This is yet another glaring example of the lack of protection for civilians in Syria and the urgent need to prevent further loss of life,” Mr. Nesirky said.
Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago.
The number of people fleeing the country increased dramatically over the weekend, with as many as 2,000 people crossing the border from Syria to Jordan in a single night, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is urgently appealing for additional funds to meet the health and protection needs of an increasing number of Syrian refugee children and their families in Jordan.
According to UNICEF, some 17,000 people – half of them children – are sheltered at the Za’atari refugee camp in the north of Jordan, but numbers are increasing daily with hundreds of new arrivals from Syria.
“We expect to have 70,000 people at Za’atari camp by the end of this year,” UNICEF’s Representative for Jordan, Dominique Hyde, said in a news release. “We must act now because it is children who continue to suffer most. So more funding is urgently required to scale-up our emergency response activities.”
The agency is appealing for $54 million to cover the emergency needs of Syrian refugees sheltering in the Za’atari camp and surrounding communities.
Conditions at Za’atari camp are harsh, with scorching temperatures, no natural shade, and frequent sandstorms that rip through the camp, according to UNICEF. The agency is currently leading an emergency water and sanitation response programme in the camp, trucking in water to provide 50 litres per person every day.
However, UNICEF is also constructing a well to provide water on a more sustainable basis due to the rapidly growing number of refugees. The installation of new toilets, showers and taps in the camp is also underway.
UNICEF noted that as the number of refugees increases, so does the risk of disease outbreaks. To address this concern, UNICEF has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Jordan’s Ministry of Health to establish a regular vaccination programme to immunize children under five years of age at the camp.
The agency is also supporting distressed children who need special care after experiencing extreme levels of violence in Syria by providing child friendly spaces where they can play, learn and receive psychosocial support.
“Children fleeing violence in Syria are at risk of suffering long-term distress without appropriate care,” said Ms. Hyde. “Right now, the child friendly spaces are sufficient for 2,500 children in Za’atari. In just a few months, we expect as many as 35,000 children will be at the camp, so we urgently need to provide additional safe places and other support to protect these children who have already suffered so much.”