Syrian children urge world leaders to 'wake up'

Published 12 March 2014  |  
(AP)
Syrian refugees stand near their tent at Zaatari camp near the Syrian border, near Mafraq, Jordan

World Vision has released a report written by Syrian children in which they detail their plight and call for stronger intervention from the international community.

More than 2.5 million people, half of whom are children, have fled Syria to escape escalating violence in the region since the outbreak of civil war almost three years ago.

Millions more have been displaced, and latest estimates from the UN Refugee Agency suggest that a staggering 9.5 million people are in need of aid while 100,000, including over 10,000 children, have been killed as a result of the conflict.

Aid organisations working in the region have repeatedly expressed concern about both the immediate and long-term effects that the ongoing crisis will have on Syrian children in particular, who have been described as a "lost generation".

In December of last year, Syrian political scientist Salem Kawakibi wrote a report detailing the ongoing repercussions of war on families across Syria, in which he argued that children often suffer the most because of their additional medical, nutritional, schooling and physiological needs.

"The main consequence of violent displacement is the disintegration of family structures," he asserted.

"Part of this relates to the increase in violence within families resulting from proximity, tensions, anxieties and the violence endured by adults. The experiences of displaced people and the management of humanitarian aid have created dynamics that will have unpredictable consequences for the country."

The new report, written and researched by 140 Syrian refugee children, supports these conclusions, and reveals the burden put upon an entire generation of young people who are struggling to survive amidst a horrific humanitarian crisis.

Entitled "Our uncertain future", the report underlines the vulnerability of Syrian children.  Having escaped escalating conflict in their homeland, a huge 86 per cent of child refugees in Lebanon and Jordon have been exposed to violence in their host communities.

"We fled the flames of war, only to find ourselves surrounded by danger, explosions, kidnapping, and theft. We are unable to live peacefully. We live in constant fear that something will happen and affect our life or hurt us," the children write.

The reality of war and its effect on the young refugees is heart wrenching.

"We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, but we do not complain because we don't want to overburden our parents," the children say.

"We cannot talk to our parents because they are suffering like us and more. At the end, we find ourselves listening to them, instead of having them listening to us."

Many young girls are being forced into early marriages in an attempt to alleviate poverty or escape the dishonour of being raped outside of wedlock, which is only adding to the psychological damage already caused by the trauma of warfare. Children as young as five are working to provide money for their families, and few are able to attend school.

The children of Syria are therefore calling on international governments to do more to put an end to their unimaginable suffering and work towards a peaceful resolution across the nation.

"With all this, our fears grow day by day that the war will rage on, that destruction will intensify and that we will lose many of our friends and relatives who are still under fire in Syria," reads the report.

"What we fear most is our uncertain future. We are afraid we may never go home and may be stranded far away from our country and home."

"To the global leaders: Wake up. We are not involved or guilty in this. Put yourselves in our place. Would you wish for this?" Rania, a 14-year old girl asks.

Chief Executive of World Vision UK Justin Byworth, who has just returned from the region, has joined this call for political leaders across the world to unite in solidarity with Syria.

"As this crisis enters its fourth year we need a spark that ignites public and political urgency and action worldwide to prevent a whole generation of Syria's children being lost and a stain on humanity that will shame our generation in the history books of tomorrow," he said.

"The children of Syria think the world has forgotten them."

World Vision is partnering with UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Save the Children and Mercy Corps to launch a No Lost Generation campaign. For more detailed information, go to http://bit.ly/nolostgeneration

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