UK

Prince Charles 'heartbroken' by plight of Syrian refugees

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Media captionWyre Davies says the royal couple are meeting children who have suffered from the conflict in Syria

The Prince of Wales says the plight of Syrian refugees is "heartbreaking", while on a tour of a camp in Jordan.

The prince said many of the children had been "traumatised by the horrors of what they've witnessed".

He also praised the "extraordinary generosity" of the Jordanian people and called for greater assistance.

The prince and the Duchess of Cornwall were visiting the King Abdullah camp, which is home to 1,500 Syrians who have fled the two-year conflict.

More than a million Syrians have now been registered by the UN as refugees in countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

'Immense challenge'

Prince Charles and the duchess, who are on a three-day tour of the Middle East, were greeted by UN staff at the camp.

The couple visited a craft skills training centre for women and children, and went to a nursery where 20 children sang songs to them.

The prince said some of the children had lost parents and suffered "horrendous experiences". He praised the work of the "wonderful" NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and the generosity of the "truly remarkable Jordanian people".

"They've managed to cope with and deal with all these hundreds of thousands of refugees and it's very nearly the second anniversary," he said.

"The generosity is extraordinary but it's putting more and more strain on food and hospitals so clearly the Jordanians need more assistance and help to be able to cope with this immense challenge."

The Duchess of Cornwall echoed her husband's sentiments, and said she found the experience "very humbling".

"Seeing all these children, some of them have lost their parents and been adopted by others, I feel it is quite heartbreaking," she said.

This is the couple's second full day in Jordan. Their next stop after the camp was the historic Roman city of Jerash.

The couple are travelling to Qatar followed by Saudi Arabia and Oman.

'Mental harm'

The King Abdullah camp, near Jordan's northern border with Syria, is one of the smaller camps in the country. It is run by the UN, Unicef and Save the Children.

The BBC's Wyre Davis, who is at the camp, said thousands of people were crossing the border into Jordan every night and half of them were thought to be children.

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Media captionThe Prince of Wales says the plight of Syrian refugees is "heartbreaking"

Extended families are crowded into one portable home but at least they have access to education and food in Jordan, he said.

The royal couple's visit comes as Save the Children warns that some two million children are in need of help in Syria.

Their report says increasing numbers are being recruited as guards, informers, fighters and, in some cases, human shields, for both sides involved in the conflict.

Save the Children's chief executive, Justin Forsyth, said the royal couple's visit would help publicise the plight of the refugees.

"There are still two million children inside Syria. If action is not taken soon to bring this conflict to an end, the physical and mental harm done to them could irreparably damage a generation of children," he said.

Earlier this month, Jordan's King Abdullah called on world nations to help his country, Turkey and Lebanon to shoulder "the tremendous burden" of caring for the huge influx of people.

The conflict in Syria began almost two years ago with demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The protests quickly turned violent as opponents of Mr Assad took up arms to try to resist a brutal crackdown by the authorities.

The conflict has left more than 70,000 people dead and two million internally displaced, of a pre-conflict population of 20.7 million.