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 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
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
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
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
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT