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Kerry Tours Syrian Refugee Camp In Jordan; U.N. Official Calls On Both Sides Of Conflict To Protect Children

“Secretary of State John Kerry helicoptered to the crowded refugee camp [in Zaatari, Jordan,] on Thursday to take stock of the humanitarian crisis caused by the bitter fighting in neighboring Syria and highlight the American efforts to provide aid,” the New York Times reports. “Troubled by a range of problems, the camp is just a small piece of a widening humanitarian crisis,” the newspaper states. “According to a senior State Department official, about 2.5 million Syrians are ‘internally displaced,’ an increase of one million since the beginning of the year,” and “[a]n additional 1.7 million Syrians have left the country, according to tabulations by the United Nations refugee agency, though the State Department official noted that the actual number could be higher,” the newspaper notes. “As he prepared to leave the camp, Mr. Kerry told reporters that his visit had highlighted the need to respond to the worsening situation in Syria,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Having provided $815 million in humanitarian assistance, the United States is the largest financial aid donor in the conflict.”

On Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres “expressed growing alarm about the scope and severity of the crisis” when “he told the Security Council that the pace of Syrians’ fleeing the country was the worst since the Rwandan genocide in 1994,” the New York Times reports (Gordon, 7/18). At the conclusion of a tour of Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui “urged all parties to take urgent measures to protect children and civilians,” the U.N. News Centre notes. “Children will continue to suffer the consequences of the ongoing conflict in Syria unless an urgent political solution is found, [she] stressed …, citing reports of the use of children as combatants, the arbitrary arrest and detention of children, and the denial of education as schools continue to come under attack,” the news service writes (7/18). “A U.N. report, released in June, said both government forces and rebels have been using boys and girls as suicide bombers or human shields,” according to Al Jazeera (7/18).