CAIRO – Argentine and FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi has turned to Facebook to raise awareness about the suffering of Syria children.
“Don’t let the #childrenofsyria lose another year to bloodshed and suffering,” Messi wrote on Facebook.
The superstar urged his fans to sign a petition to world leaders calling for “an end to the violence against Syrian children, an end to the blocking of humanitarian aid, an end to attacks on humanitarian workers, schools and hospitals, [and] more investment in education and psychological protection for all children affected.”
At the end of his message, he provided a link to the petition posted on Change.org.
Messi’s message, posted both in Spanish and English, was liked by more than 22,000 and 17,000 respectively.
“You are a great person before being a great player, God blesses you and your family,” Alaa Emara, a Facebook user from Egypt, commented on Messi’s post.
Another user said: “Respect from a Muslim .. thank you leo..”
Ammar Al-Ayyubi, from Syria said: “Much love for you from here #syria you are the best♡ i hope to meet you.”
“Totally agree and will sign. Children do not ask to born into conflict and war no matter what country they are from. NOTHING is gained by war,” Linda Kiernan wrote.
As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released a new report that the number of children affected by the civil war in Syria has more than doubled over the past year.
UNICEF said the child casualty rates were the highest recorded in any recent conflict in the region.
It cited UN figures that at least 10,000 children have been killed in the Syrian war but noted that the real number is probably higher.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that more than 136,000 have been killed since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
The UNICEF report said 2 million children needed some form of psychological support or treatment while a total of 5.5 million children were affected by the conflict – some of them inside Syria and others living abroad as refugees.
This is more than twice the number of children affected by the conflict in March 2013, when UNICEF estimated it had impacted 2.3 million young Syrians.
The number of children displaced inside Syria has risen to nearly 3 million from 920,000 a year ago. Meanwhile, UNICEF said the number of child refugees has grown to 1.2 million from 260,000 since last year – 425,000 of them under 5 years old.