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Source: Save The Children

A decade of war has left Syrian children’s lives in ruins. They’ve suffered bombings, schools being destroyed, and losing loved ones. And now, COVID-19 brings an extra layer of complication to children’s lives. Here’s how the conflict developed. 

In 2011, protests become the catalyst for a decade of conflict in Syria. As violence erupts, families begin to gradually flee the country in a bid to find safety. Children’s lives are turned upside down, whether they remain in Syria or cross its borders. 

In 2012, fighting develops into a conflict that engulfs the entire country, with devastating results for children. In one massacre, 40 children are killed. 14-year-old Hassan recounts, “They walk the children in front of them to create a shield so they themselves will not be shot. They create a human shield of children.” 

In 2013, 400 children are gassed, as chemical weapons are introduced and will continue to be used on civilians. As war intensifies, food becomes scarce. Parents are running out of options to feed and protect their children.  

In 2014, the conflict becomes more complex, with ISIS forming in Syria. Airstrikes against ISIS destroy communities, leaving 150,000 women and children with nowhere safe to go. The numbers of displaced, both within Syria and outside its border, continue to rise every day.  

For 9-year-old Ali, war has changed how he feels about the future. “I relive our escape every day. Sometimes I sit on a rock here and I look at the valley. I am so close to home, but so far away at the same time. It is unreachable, just like a new chance at happiness.” 

In 2015, the world is shocked to hear the story of toddler Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey after attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea with his father.  

In 2016, 90 children are killed in Aleppo, where bombs and chemical weapons are reportedly being used. Tragically, 4.6 million people are living in besieged areas in dire conditions, where it is difficult and highly risky for humanitarian agencies to reach them. 

In 2017, the Syrian refugee crisis is now the largest since the Second World War. Within Syria there is no let up. Idlib again witnesses an escalation in conflict. The impact on children and their mental health is severe. Two-thirds of children in Syria are said to have lost a loved one, had their house damaged, or suffered conflict-related injuries. 

Schoolteacher Hisham explains the impact of the conflict on his children, including son Ibrahim, 7, “When the war first started, the children thought it was some kind of game. But then they started losing people they knew. This has had a huge impact on them. It’s impacted negatively on their habits in their daily life. They reached a point at which whatever they hear terrifies them or makes them want to run away.” 

In 2018, Eastern Ghouta faces the brunt of the conflict, with airstrikes becoming a daily occurrence. There are now 2.5 million child refugees who have left Syria and sought safety in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.  

7-year-old Noor fled Syria and ended up in Zaatari camp in Jordan with her mother. She remembers her father, “I remember that he gave me a purple sweater with purple hearts on it. I still wear it. Somebody came to my mum and told me my father had passed away. She didn’t believe it at the beginning, so she went to check. Now he is in heaven.” Noor’s mother then abandoned her, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. 

In 2019, Half of Syria’s children have grown up knowing nothing but war, and 5 million children are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 2019 sees more brutality as fighting in Idlib kills more children in just one month than in the whole of 2018.  

Jawad, aged 8, remembers playing with his toys, “My friend would come and bring the planes, he would bring his toys and we would play. But now there isn’t anyone to play with. They’re dead. They died after we were displaced. They were killed by strikes from the planes.” 

In 2020, COVID-19 is preventing children getting an education. It is estimated 50% of children at school in North Syria have now dropped out of school. 

This last decade, Save the Children have been there for children and families affected by the Syrian war. We’ve been supporting children to get an education, providing essential needs like hygiene supplies, and supporting refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries. We’ve been working with children to learn directly from them what support they need. And we’ll continue to be there for as long as the conflict lasts. 

You can help us reach the children who need support in Syria. Please donate to our Syria appeal here

MIL OSI