A baby is born to a Syrian refugee family every hour, the United Nations warned on Monday as it launched an appeal to aid Syrian children.
Since the start of the conflict almost three years ago, more than 21,000 Syrian babies have been born as refugees in makeshift camps on the borders of neighboring countries.
The U.N. has launched its appeal as freezing temperatures of winter have added to the refugees’ plight, with a warning that more had to be done to help the babies and children of the civil war if a “disaster” is to be avoided.
About 500,000 Syrian children are at risk of contracting polio after missing vaccinations because of the civil war, according to the U.N.
This has triggered the first polio outbreak in the region for more than a decade, while freezing temperatures are causing a rise in cases of pneumonia among children together with respiratory infections.
As the Alexa snowstorm gripped the region earlier this month, at least 10 Syrian refugee children and babies were reported to have frozen to death.
Another problem facing the refugee families is registering the birth of newborns.
“The majority of babies born as refugees do not have their births officially registered meaning they will be more vulnerable to abuse, such as people trafficking and forced child marriage,” reported Britain’s The Daily Mail on Tuesday, adding that only 23 per cent of the 781 babies born in Lebanon to Syrian mothers in October had birth certificates.
Unicef has also said the percentage of Caesarean-section deliveries inside Syria has doubled as mothers try to avoid the risk of being unable to reach health centers and hospitals and forced to endure unattended births.
The civil war between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking his overthrow has raged for 33 months and killed more than 126,000 people.
The crisis has put an enormous strain on neighboring countries, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are sheltering in tents as the winter sets in.
Some 4.1 million Syrians will be living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt by the end of 2014, up from an estimated 2.4 million today, according to the latest estimate.
In all, 660,000 Syrians will be living in refugee camps by the end of 2014, while another 3.44 million will be living in private accommodation, the U.N. said as it launched its appeal for funding to cover aid for Syria and other conflicts around the world next year.