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Donncha is pictured with mother Mazna and her children Ahlam, left, and her youngest Hehyam who is suffering from malnutrition in a tented settlement at border area in Akkar.
Donncha is pictured with mother Mazna and her children Ahlam, left, and her youngest Hehyam who is suffering from malnutrition in a tented settlement at border area in Akkar.
UNICEF Ambassador Donncha O'Callaghan Visits Lebanon
6 June 2013, 4:49 pm
By The Editor
UNICEF Ireland Ambassador Donncha O'Callaghan has returned home from a humanitarian mission to Lebanon with UNICEF Ireland where he saw first-hand the dire situation for Syrian children and their families.
The crisis that has left more than 70,000 people dead and nearly six million displaced from their homes. Accompanied by UNICEF staff & UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power, Donncha 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 organisations are being stretched to the limit.

Speaking about his time in Lebanon, Donncha O'Callaghan said "I've seen a lot of awful situations over the years with UNICEF Ireland but conditions for Syrian children in Lebanon are dire. Children and in particular young girls are the conflict's most vulnerable victims and their suffering is only getting worse."

"Their living conditions are horrific; it's shocked me to my core. In the camps I visited, we met families living in make-shift tents constructed of sacks and plastic sheeting. With no water or toilets, open trenches serve as latrines and children are getting sick. Many children have scabies, lice and infections from drinking dirty water."

"I held a little baby girl who is the same age as my baby daughter Anna and it was a shocking experience. She was so malnourished and so unwell, I could barely feel her in my arms and her poor mother only had a plastic bag to use as a nappy for her. At least when we were there, the UNICEF team were able to ensure that she would be seen by a doctor and receive the help she desperately needed."

During his time in the Bekaa Valley, Donncha saw the different ways UNICEF is reaching children with child protection & education services. Spending time visiting a "School in a Bus" which travels around reaching children, Donncha met with children who are not in school but each day visit the bus which conducts 3 classes providing children in the region with classes in Arabic and English.

Donncha spent time on a special caravan that travels throughout the entire Bekaa region providing trauma counselling and therapy for children through play, art and games. During his visit, Donncha met with children and their parents at special play therapy session run by UNICEF to help children cope and survive the mental and physical trauma of the conflict.

Making an urgent appeal to people across Ireland, Donncha said: "For me, even though this conflict urgently needs to be resolved politically - it isn't about politics - it's about the children I've met whose lives & futures hang in the balance today. It's about whether-when the fighting finally ends-these children will be healthy enough, well-educated enough, strong enough, to rebuild their lives - that's UNICEF's job right now and that's their focus. I am asking people across Ireland to please help them."

How people can help:
To make a donation to UNICEF Ireland's Appeal for the Children of Syria:
Lo-call: 1850 767 999
Mail: UNICEF Ireland, Freepost, 33 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1

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