New York: (UN 20/9/2013): More than 4,000 Syrian children have crossed the border into neighbouring countries without parents or adult relatives, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The agency says the figure only includes children that have been identified and registered and the real numbers "are evidently higher".
UNICEF Spokesperson Marixie Mercado says each of the Syrian children arriving in neighbouring countries has witnessed or been a victim of horrific levels of violence and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
"Lebanon has received the largest number of children, 1,698. In the Beka’a Valley area newly-arrived refugee children are being swept up and used for agricultural child labour. Jordan has the second largest number with 1,170 children, including some as young as nine, most of whom were in Za’atari camp. In Iraq, UNICEF estimates there were 300 newly-arrived unaccompanied and separated children in the north. Many are working to provide income back home to families, and desperate to get back to school." (Duration: 28")
Marixie Mercado says there are many reasons that drive children to leave Syria.
Some have lost their parents and relatives in the fighting, others want to be reunited with family members who left earlier and others have been sent away by parents afraid they would be recruited into the fighting.
She says UNICEF has worked with partners to identify separated and unaccompanied children and to make sure they were protected.