10,000 Kids are Trapped in Raqqa Amid ISIS Fighting
Amidst horrific scenes of violence, children remain especially vulnerable.
Nearly 10,000 children may be trapped in the Syrian city of Raqqa, a United Nations official said this week.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Fran Equiza reported that he was “overwhelmed” by the appalling experienced described to him by children who had recently fled the city and were being housed in makeshift camps outside the area.
Read More: The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Photos
Raqqa is held by fighters from the Islamic State but is facing increasing attacks from US-backed militants for control of the city, according to the AP. Thousands of residents of Raqqa have fled to the camps that Equiza visited, and told him about the conditions of those who still remain trapped inside the city itself, including the children.
"There are 10,000 children trapped in Raqqa in extremely dire conditions. No electricity, no water, probably very little food ... and the battle almost every day," Equiza said. “The level of suffering, losing friends, relatives, family of these children is absolutely staggering.”
Most of the children in the camps were displaced from their homes in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour by brutal fighting. Equiza pleaded for more humanitarian and governmental aid on behalf of the thousands of children who remain in grave danger inside the city walls.
“We need support in order to be able to provide these children the rights they are entitled,” Equiza said to AP.
The city has been a stronghold of the Islamic State for the last three years. The spokesman of the opposing Syrian Democratic Forces, Mustafa Bali, told the Washington Post that IS is “defending its capital.”
“They are fighting to the death,” Bali said.
Many civilians fled the city as fighting ramped up, but for those that remained, the cost was great. Doctor’s Without Borders reported that they had treated over 400 patients by the beginning of August- several had wounds inflicted by sniper fire or land mines.
Raji Sharhan, a doctor with UNICEF, pointed out that children were particularly hard-struck by the trauma of living in a war zone.
“What you see in their eyes is shock. They’ve survived the bombing and shelling. They’ve been bound to their mother’s chest on the escape and heard the screams over and over. They have already lost their childhood,” Sharhan told the Washington post.
As of August 25, the non-profit group IAmSyria reported the total death toll since the 2011 uprising in Syria has reached 470,000 people. Of that number, 55,000 are reported to have been children.