BEIRUT — Syria’s devastating civil war will force a generation of children to grow up illiterate and filled with hate, a U.N. envoy warned Thursday as fighting raged on around the country.
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.
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.