World

The Syrian Conflict Is Severely Disrupting The Lives Of 5.5 Million Children

Here is a graphic by UNICEF describing how.

1. March 15 marks the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict. What started as a non-violent uprising in 2011 has since morphed into a violent Civil War pitting the regime against the opposition, and some rebel groups against each other.

UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1416/Noorani

A child carried water back to his home at an informal settlement for Syrian refugees, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon on Dec. 7, 2013.

2. Syria’s children have born the brunt of the fighting. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has put together the following graphic quantifying the crises these children face.

Hosam Katan / Reuters

Children react next to the body of their mother, who activists said was killed by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on Feb. 22, 2014.

4. Behind the numbers, each child’s story is unique. Here are the experiences of two Syrian girls collected by UNICEF staff in Jordan and Lebanon.

Yazan Homsy / Reuters

A girl carries a sign that says, “300 children without education for two years,” as part of a campaign organized by activists in the besieged area of Homs, on Jan 22, 2014.

5. Ola Al Hassan, Age 13

©UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1439/Noorani

Ola Al Hassan, 13, and her family fled Syria for Jordan in May 2013. Here she stands inside her tent in an informal tent settlement in Jordan.

“It was very nice in Syria,” she told UNICEF. “I had to do nothing other than go to school and play. Our school was very close, so [my friend] and I used to walk to school every day. After school, we used to do our homework together then play.”

After reaching Jordan, Ola and her family initially sought shelter in the Za’atari refugee camp, where they also registered as refugees. The family soon left the camp because of its crowded conditions. Instead, they went on to live in Mafraq, where Ola and her family found work on farms. Soon they relocated again, this time to the Jordan Valley, due to seasonal shifts in the work available.

©UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1439/Noorani

“We are farmers by nature. We cannot live in the desert,” Ola told UNICEF. “What will we do in a refugee camp? We do not want to be dependent on handouts or become a burden for anyone. We want to work and earn our living.”

Ola’s father told UNICEF he also lamented the Syrian life lost. “We used to grow cotton and wheat. Now I work on people’s land for my children,” he said. Ola has four siblings – one sister, Haya, 15, and three brothers: Fuad, 15; Sultan, 14; and Ahmad, 8. “Everyone used to go to school,” said Ola’s father. “There is no school here. Our children are losing out on their lives. I do not want my children to be ignorant.”

7. Yamam, 10, and Hayat, 13

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Yamama, 10 (left), and her cousin Hayat, 13 (right) live in an informal tent settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Here on Dec 6, 2013 they carry large, plastic buckets to collect drinking water from a nearby water point. The two girls and thirteen family members all share a single tent.

Hayat, her parents, five sisters, and one brother fled from Homs, Syria in 2013. “Back in Syria, I would go to school during the day, and we studied everything,” she told Unicef. “Here I can’t go to school; I go to classes in the tent where we live. I like to draw, and I also help my mother. I clean the house. I also cook a little. I make fattayer [pastries]. I miss Syria and my school there and everything. I wish I [could] go back to Syria and live like we used to because Syria is better than here. Everything is different here. Back home, my father used to take us every week to the sea and to the park to play with swings. But here we can’t go anywhere. There isn’t anywhere we can go.”

This story initially misidentified the anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict. It is March 15, not March 13.

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