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15 Mar, 2014 19:10

UN calls for aid, open borders in Syria as crisis hits 3 years mark

The UN and international aid groups have urged for all borders to be open to Syrian refugees as the crisis, worsening each day, entered its fourth year on Saturday.

The Syrian civil war which began amid the Arab spring in the region, initially started as anti-government protests.

Over time it has grown into what has been dubbed the worst humanitarian crisis witnessed for decades. The number of those killed topped the 100,000 mark when the UN stopped counting months ago. Activists in Syria say the number could be as high as 146,000 people. More than 2.5 million Syrians sought refuge in neighboring countries, while 6.5 million have been displaced inside. Civilians have been hit the hardest – three quarters of the refugees are said to be women and children.

An estimated 2.3 million children were in need of shelter, food, health care, education or psychological help only last year, said the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake. Since March 2013, the number of children affected by the crisis has more than doubled to 5.5 million, according to the organization.

“Every one of those numbers has a face. Every one of those numbers is a child who has lost a future, or whose future is at risk," said Lake, calling the three year mark "a sad and infuriating anniversary."

A file photo taken on December 15, 2013 shows a Syrian woman carrying children following airstrikes in northern city of Aleppo. (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Khatieb)

A Damascus resident told RT that his young children are forced to work to put food on the table.

“My life and the life of my children has changed 180 degrees since the first days of the Syrian crisis up to now” said Abu Hamadeh. “I was disabled when my house was hit by a mortar and destroyed.”

“Between then and now if it weren’t for my kids working and helping me somehow I would be able to feed them.”

Syria’s economy and infrastructure have been devastated by the ongoing war. More than 60 percent of Syrians live in poverty and less than half of the population even has a job. Landmark sites that made up the country’s cultural heritage have been destroyed, museums have been looted and archaeological sites smashed by shelling.

Victim of the Syrian conflict Ammar Shamia shared his story with RT telling about his loses.

“I’ve lost two sons and my wife is under threat because I spoke my mind. When the crisis started the opposition threatened to kill my son. We were living in our own country and then the opposition came and searched for him. They searched for him and they knew where he was, then they came for him, but only succeeded in killing two of his brothers. This is a picture of my son in a Turkish newspaper where it promises 5 million dollars for my son’s death. This is Turkey where they are calling for freedom,” he said.

Men carrying children run out of a burning building following a barrel bomb attack in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on February 8, 2014. (AFP Photo / Baraa Al-Halabi)

The UN called for all borders to be open to Syrian refugees. UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres speaking at a press-conference on Saturday said that is unacceptable that “Syrian children are drowning in the Mediterranean today after fleeing the conflict.”

Despite the UN Security Council resolution adopted in February aid groups say there is there is little impact on humanitarian deliveries.

"I think we have to be honest. The situation in Syria is getting worse, not better, and it hasn't got better since the Security Council resolution," said Justin Forsyth of the aid organization “Save the Children.”

"More people have been killed, more people have fled. In terms of on the ground, changing lives, saving children, we are not even close to getting impact."

The crisis has attracted radical Islamists from across the globe. At least 2,000 Europeans are now fighting in Syria. France is the biggest source of volunteers with the country putting the figure at 700. Belgium and Germany have seen around 300 head for Syria, while UK has said that around 250 people have returned from the war and now pose a terrorist threat.

AFP Photo / Karam Jamal

The father of one of the Islamists told RT that governments are doing nothing to stop the flow of the volunteers to Syria.

“We know the reasons why people like my son go to Syria. Even the European governments know the reasons. Some people move there because they get paid, some are looking for identity or adventure. Freedom fighters they move there in the name of religion. They know all the reasons. The European government is just watching,” said Dimitri Bontinck.

UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres, speaking at a press conference on Saturday called on the international community to increase efforts in finding a solution to the crisis.

"It is clear that there is no military solution to this war. It is clear that nobody is winning; everybody is losing," he said. "The war would stop now if arms and money would not be provided to both sides."