Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Liam Neeson and Stephen Rea join fellow celebrities seeking help to stop suffering of Syria war children

Taken star Liam Neeson
Taken star Liam Neeson

Celebrities including Liam Neeson and Stephen Rea have appealed to the public to donate much-needed funds to save the lives of the children of war-torn Syria.

The actors joined fellow UNICEF Ambassadors, including Ireland rugby star Donncha O'Callaghan, best-selling author Cathy Kelly and Galway hurler Joe Canning, in issuing the charity's winter fundraising appeal.

In a letter the ambassadors said the children of Syria are caught in the largest humanitarian crisis in history.

"Over one million children have been forced to flee their homes in the dark of night and make a difficult and dangerous journey across the border to seek safety in neighbouring countries -- it's a staggering number, the equivalent to every boy and girl in Ireland leaving these shores," the letter added.

The ambassadors were briefed by UNICEF executive director Peter Power about the latest situation following his visit last week to the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan.

"Life for a child under siege in Syria, or in a refugee camp like Za'atari where 10 babies are born every day, is not the kind of life any of us would wish for our children. If we do not protect them now, we will lose a generation of doctors, engineers and political leaders who will one day rebuild Syria."

Some 6.8 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, with ongoing conflict driving people from their homes. More than two million people have fled to neighbouring countries.

UNICEF Ireland launched its Winter Appeal for the children of Syria.

Rugby player O'Callaghan, who visited Syrian refugees in Lebanon in June, said he fears for the lives of the young children he met as winter approaches.

"Near the Syrian border, I met children living in makeshift tents who were severely malnourished and drinking dirty water.

"As a father of young children it broke my heart to see the conditions they were forced to live in. I worry about what winter will bring," he said.

Last winter, snow and heavy rain led to flooding in refugee camps where UNICEF treated children for hypothermia.

The organisation is appealing to the public to become regular donors to fund a massive distribution of winter supplies for children including blankets, shoes and socks, jackets and baby bodysuits.

Donations can be made at www.unicef.ie.

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