Skip to main content

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

By Mia Farrow, Special to CNN
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Wed June 5, 2013
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
updated 6:11 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
updated 1:28 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
updated 6:10 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
updated 5:33 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT