NEW YORK, June 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- UNICEF Ambassador Lucy Liu traveled to Lebanon with UNICEF to see first-hand the dire situation for Syrian children and their families who have fled a crisis that has left more than 70,000 people dead and nearly six million displaced from their homes. Accompanied by UNICEF staff, Liu visited makeshift settlements in the Bekaa region of Lebanon, the country that hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world.
Up to one million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Lebanon, half of whom are children. The number of those arriving from Syria is growing dramatically, with more than 100,000 crossing the border each month. The resources of Lebanese host communities, the Government, and humanitarian organizations are being stretched to the limit.
"The camps I visited are severely underserved. We met families living in make-shift tents constructed of burlap sacks and plastic sheets. With no water or toilets, open trenches serve as latrines, and diarrhea cases are rising. Many children have scabies, lice and fleas," said Lucy Liu, a UNICEF Ambassador since 2004. "I saw children playing in waste, in rubble. They are desperate to go to school."
UNICEF has warned that the Syrian conflict risks creating a "lost generation" of millions of children who will carry physical and emotional scars of this conflict for many years to come. Children arriving from Syria have fled for their lives, often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. More than 40 percent of children from Syria are of school age; many have missed months or even years of learning. In Lebanon, some 150,000 Syrian children are not in school, and that number is expected to rise to more than 400,000 by the end of the year. Public schools are coming close to reaching a saturation point.
Displaced children have experienced and witnessed unspeakable violence—the death or injury of relatives, neighbors and friends—or have been exposed to harrowing scenes of destruction. These experiences can significantly impact children's psychological and social wellbeing and development, both in the short- and long-term.
"Every child deserves a childhood. These children need nutrition, medical care and education," said Liu. "I am asking people to find out about this crisis and to please help them."
In Lebanon, UNICEF is assisting refugees from Syria, as well as the poorest Lebanese host communities.
The organization has scaled up its programs in education, protection, health and nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene to respond to urgent needs. It is working to get the most vulnerable children back to school in a safe, protective environment; supporting the health care system with immunization services and life-saving medical supplies and essential medicines; providing psychological support to children so they can begin to regain a sense of normalcy; facilitating access to safe drinking water and sanitation; and supporting programs to prevent violence against women and girls.
The growing number of refugees, affected communities, and the lack of a foreseeable political resolution to the crisis will require enormous—and sustained—resources to meet the needs of the population. UNICEF's emergency response remains significantly underfunded.
How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF's relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Text: SYRIA to 864233 to donate $10.
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038
As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.
Lucy Liu is an award winning actress as well as a producer, director and artist. As a UNICEF Ambassador, Liu has traveled to Peru, Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, and Lesotho to interact with children and witness UNICEF's lifesaving work.
To view a video of Lucy Liu's visit to Lebanon, please visit: http://uncf.us/LucyLiuSyria
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.
SOURCE U.S. Fund for UNICEF