Skip to main content

Mia Farrow: Don't let Syria's children die

By Mia Farrow, Special to CNN
June 5, 2013 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow met with Syrian refugees in January 2013.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow met with Syrian refugees in January 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mia Farrow: Three years into Syria's civil war, more than 80,000 people have died
  • Farrow: In this humanitarian catastrophe, women and children are hit hard especially
  • She says UNICEF worries that Syrian children could die from preventable diseases
  • Farrow: Until a political solution can be found, we must help Syria's most vulnerable victims

Editor's note: Actress Mia Farrow has traveled extensively as an ambassador for UNICEF, including trips to Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, South Sudan and Uganda. She has been active in the organization for more than 12 years. Farrow starred in the film "Rosemary's Baby" and has appeared in many other films, including "The Great Gatsby," "Death on the Nile" and "Hannah and Her Sisters."

(CNN) -- As most of us are agonizingly aware, Syria's bloody conflict has entered a third year.

Graphic videos and reports of civilians being subjected to aerial bombardments, executions, torture, rape, massacres -- atrocities of the worst kind -- have horrified the world and caused much handwringing in many languages and in high places where everyone agrees the situation in Syria is complicated.

Everyday realities on the ground, however, are completely clear: Homes, hospitals, schools, shops, entire water systems and whole sections of ancient cities have been bombed and reduced to rubble. More than 80,000 Syrians, including thousands of children, have perished.

At least 4.25 million civilians inside Syria have sought refuge in caves, ruins or in abandoned schools.

Another million and a half have fled into neighboring countries -- Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt -- where they are stressing scarce resources.

It cannot be said that they are welcome guests. Their numbers and varied ethnicities threaten to further destabilize an unsteady region. But they keep coming.

U.N.: War crimes happen daily in Syria
Growing concern for besieged Syrian city

In January, I traveled with UNICEF to visit with refugee families along Lebanon's restive borders with Syria.

Snow covered the hills. People had managed to cobble together pieces of billboards, boxes and fabrics that shuddered against frigid winds.

Ragged, tangle haired children stared.

Many had arrived in Lebanon during the summer, and so they were without coats and shoes. They had fled with their lives and little else.

Mahmoud, an angel-faced but unsmiling 7-year-old, described his journey from Homs into Lebanon. His father and brother had been killed. His home and school were bombed. The sky, he said, was "filled with fire." People scattered.

With two other families, the boy and his mother made their way through a dark, tense night, darting then stopping to avoid being detected by military, praying not to be shot or to tread on a land mine. The explosive devices, Mahmoud explained, have a red spot on them, and they are planted all along the Syrian side of the border.

The women spoke of their lost husbands, brothers, sons; of homes, careers and ways of life lost, too. Some women had been raped. "We are traumatized," they told me.

Halima, who had been a practicing lawyer in Syria said, "We don't want to be here. We don't want handouts. There is no dignity for us. We hope the fighting will end so that we can go home. We only want peace."

Now, four months later, the snow and sleet are giving way to the summer heat and bringing new dangers. Dirty water, no toilets, poor nourishment: This is brew for cholera and other killer diseases sure to spread rapidly in crowded camps and shelters.

UNICEF worries these traumatized, malnourished children who survived a nightmare in Syria could start dying from preventable diseases.

Under the most difficult and dangerous circumstances, UNICEF staff and UNICEF's partners are courageously working around the clock inside Syria and in neighboring countries delivering life-saving supplies; emergency rations, water purification tablets, medicine, clothes, blankets, vaccinations and access to school.

No one could have anticipated the enormity of the humanitarian catastrophe that is now unfolding.

Until a political solution to Syria's conflict can be found, its innocent and most vulnerable victims must be kept alive.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mia Farrow.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT