Posted Aug 2, 2013 11:56 PM
DOHUK, IRAQ / BARCELONA, SPAIN -- UNICEF Ambassador and NBA star Pau Gasol returned earlier this week to Barcelona, Spain following a visit with Syrian refugees in Iraq.
More than 1.7 million people -- about 50 percent of them children -- have fled the armed conflict in Syria into neighboring countries, including more than 160,000 in Iraq.
"I met children who have fled from a tragic situation in Syria and are now urgently dependent on humanitarian aid," said Gasol, a two-time NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. "It is shocking to learn what these children, who have been affected by the conflict in Syria, have experienced. No child should have to endure such violence and destruction, or be deprived of the basic services they need to grow and develop to fulfill their potential."
In Iraq, Gasol met a number of children including a 10-year-old boy named Sulinam who told him, "in Syria, our shop was destroyed. I want the war to end there so that I can return home and my brothers and sisters and I can go back to school."
Some of the UNICEF responses to the crisis that Gasol saw during his visit include: the provision of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities, primary education, health care, and child protection services.
To date, inside Syria and in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees, UNICEF has provided 10 million people with access to safe water, more than 1.9 million children with vaccinations against measles and 260,000 with access to education, among other responses.
"Providing these services is a huge job," said Gasol. "The needs are enormous and much more help is needed."
The humanitarian crisis related to the Syrian conflict is unprecedented with the UN having made its largest ever humanitarian appeal as well as calling on governments to find an immediate end to the tragedy. The lack of funding to respond to the emergency is severely limiting UNICEF's ability to respond. UNICEF urgently needs $300 million to continue to provide essential services to help Syrian children.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF's relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Text: SYRIA to 864233 to donate $10.
Mail: U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038
As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.
Pau Gasol and UNICEF
Gasol has visited five countries as an ambassador for UNICEF, including South Africa (2005) and Angola (2007) where he visited projects on the fights against HIV/AIDS, Ethiopia (2010) where he visited programs supporting the "Schools for Africa" initiative, Chad (2012) where he visited programs around the response to the nutritional crisis in the Sahel, and Iraq (2013) where he visited programs supporting refugees of the conflict in Syria.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.
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