TODAY | March 11, 2014
>> in the news this morning, the civil war in syria has now left 5.5 million children in need of urgent humanitarian aid . unicef says that number has doubled in just one year. nbc's chief global affairs correspondent, bill neely , is in the syrian capital of damascus with more on these forgotten victims.
>> reporter: yes, natalie . even this region, the middle east , has never seen a deadlier civil war . and is the u.n. now says this is the most dangerous place on earth for children. some of their stories, especially in one suburb under siege, not far from here, well, they're simply heartbreaking. they live amid war, they have seen things no child should see. this is their escape, to dance. but in a quiet corner are other children, who are starved and bombed behind the front lines, haunted by what was done to them. we picked grass and wheat to eat, says mohammed, who is small for 12. we also bought bags of wheat to eat for $3. the children were hungry and under siege for a year. and they are orphans now. their father presumed killed, their mother gone, their bodies bearing scars of war. i was shot at, he says, and hit by shrapnel. it is a heartbreaking story, but there are so many. at a school, overcrowded with children who fled fighting, four whose fathers have been killed. just under the surface smiles, deep pain. he describes how his father was shot dead. the details unlocking a young girl 's grief. rodana and dana can't hold their tears back. dana describes how her father was dragged away by gunmen and never came back. when little lela tells her father's story, rodana finds the courage to speak. he tried to keep us safe, she says. they want to be doctors, to make their dead father proud. and they want comfort, like so many children living through this brutal war. a war, natalie , that has now claimed the lives of more than 10,000 children, more than 40,000 injured, more than 1 million in urgent need of help. it is simply the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. natalie .
>> heartbreaking. bill neely in damascus, thank you.