Zee Media Bureau
Beirut: Underlining the after-effects of the ongoing civil tussle in Syria, a UN envoy on Thursday said the war would lead to a generation of illiterate and hatred-filled children.
Leila Zerrougui, the special representative for children and armed conflict, said both sides in the Syrian conflict, now in its third year, continue to commit grave violations against children.
Scores of children have been killed, injured, detained, and forced to witness or to commit atrocities as President Bashar Assad`s troops battle opposition fighters trying to oust his regime, she said.
Zerrougui spoke following a three-day visit to Syria, where she met with government officials and rebel commanders. She said she urged both sides to spare the children.
Once the war is over, Zerrougui said she told her counterparts, they "will have to face a generation of children who lost their childhood, have a lot of hate and are illiterate."
The fighting has destroyed thousands of schools across Syria while many of those still standing have been turned into shelters for displaced people, Zerrougui also said, speaking to reporters in Beirut.
Before Syria, the U.N. envoy also visited Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.
She said children account for nearly half of the five million Syrians who fled their homes because of the fighting. Of those, half have not gone to school. And nearly 70 percent of those who do go to school drop-out because they need to help support their families or for other reasons, Zerrougui added.
During her visit to Syria, Zerrougui also urged opposition forces to stop recruiting children into combat and asked the government to consider children, who were forced to taking up arms, as victims, not as combatants.
Aid groups have warned that some 2 million children in Syria are facing malnutrition, disease, early marriage and severe trauma as a result of the civil war.
The Violations Documentation Center in Syria, a key activist group that keeps track of the war`s dead, wounded and missing persons, says 7,132 children under the age of 15 have been killed in the past two and half years, including 4,939 boys and 2,193 girls.
More than 93,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict started in March 2011 as largely peaceful protests against Assad`s rule. The crisis escalated into civil war after some opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown on dissent.
Fighting continued unabated in Syria on Thursday, particularly in the north, where activists said Kurdish fighters took control of a major town near the border with Turkey.
The Kurdish forces have battled rebels from radical Islamic groups for control of the town of Ras al-Ain for days, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group with a network of activists on the ground.
With agency inputs