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Syria: today peace seems a long way off

Today, as the number of children fleeing Syria reached the 1 million mark, peace seems a long way off.

The number of people forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods and settle in neighbouring countries has increased massively, with a tenfold increase in the number of refugees over the last 12 months.

1 million children have been forced to flee horror, destruction and death. The following article tells the story of one family I met in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Ahmad's daughter, Zeina, age 2, inside the tent where the family is now living. (photo: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children)

Ahmad, a father of three, smiles at me from inside his tent. It’s a wide, toothy grin and I’m immediately charmed.

We shake hands and Ahmad invites us inside, settling us down on the floor with a blanket before insisting we take coffee.

He sits down to explain why they eventually left Syria, after more than two years of conflict.

No food

“We were just surviving from day-to-day. If I missed even one day of working because of the fighting, I couldn’t afford food for my family,” Ahmad tells us.

“And that’s what happened in the end – the fighting meant we couldn’t work, and food was too expensive. We borrowed some money to pay for a little food, but that soon ran out,” says Ahamd.

“We couldn’t afford to survive – there was no life for us left in Syria.”

Ahmad pauses for a moment, remembering Syria. We wait silently, sipping our hot, strong coffee.

He looks at his children and continues softly.

“It’s the worst feeling as a father, being unable to give your children food – worse even than the bullets and shells.”

Refuge

Now in Lebanon, life’s still a struggle, but things are a little better for Ahmad.

He’s been working with Save the Children’s cash-for-work programme, which involved him cleaning up the camp. He was paid in cash – which is better than payment with food vouchers because it gives the family the option to buy exactly what they need.

Ahmad used the cash for water and food for the whole family, and tells me it lasted a long time. His gratitude is evident, but I’m embarrassed to receive it – as a compromise I promise to pass on the thanks to the Save the Children cash-for-work team responsible for setting up the project.

We talk more generally about the situation in Syria, and what Ahmad thinks will happen next.  He shakes his head sadly at me.

“This whole war is a war on children – lack of food, lack of water, and shells – they all kill the children first.”

Ahmad tells me that he just wants peace, so he can take his children home.

1 million children

The one-millionth child refugee is a grim milestone, and a reminder of our failure.

1 million children have been forced to flee horror, destruction and death in their home country.

We must not fail to help these refugee children – and the friends they left behind.

 

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