Save the Children, 11th March
More than half of children surveyed say that family breakdown, separation or bereavement are serious concerns for them and their communities
Fifty-six per cent of Syrian children say that family breakdown, separation and bereavement are “very serious” challenges facing them and their communities, as Syria marks eight years of conflict.
Ahead of a major international summit on Syria in Brussels this week, Save the Children carried out a survey and focus group discussions with children in four governorates in Syria that have been devastated by war.
We found that more than a third of Syrian children said they ‘always or frequently’ feel unsafe, as well as distressed and alone, as detailed in a new Save the Children report, A Better Tomorrow: Syria’s Children Have Their Say.
Half of those surveyed identify violence, family separation, the destruction of homes and vital infrastructure and lack of access to basic services like education and healthcare as “very serious” challenges. However, this survey only provides a snapshot and further consultations should now happen across Syria to fully understand the recovery needs of children and their communities.
Rasha* was separated from her two young sons after her husband kidnapped them and took them into ISIS-held territory in Syria. She was finally reunited with them after five years apart. She said:
“While I lost them, I didn’t rest. Every day I would pray, and fast, and ask God to see them again. I always believed that I would see them again - for five years, I didn’t lose hope…Every time I heard a child cry for his mother, my heart wept. But thank God, I’ve now been reunited with my sons. After they reached the camp, Save the Children cared for them and later tracked me down on Facebook. They checked that I really was the boys’ mother and I proved it by telling them about the scars on Yousef’s body and their birthmarks.”
As the conflict enters its 9th year on March 15th, more than half of Syrian children are in need of humanitarian assistance and a third are out of school. Many live in areas where basic services are almost non-existent and the infrastructure they rely on has been decimated, and at least 2.5 million children are internally displaced.
In surveys with more than 365 children in Idlib, Aleppo, al-Raqqa and al-Hassakeh governorates, they told Save the Children:
- Violence and insecurity, substandard housing and the lack of basic services are the major challenges facing their community.
- Being separated from family/family breakdown is a major concern. Following the massive internal displacement crisis within Syria, the overwhelming majority (98%) said being with their family was very important for their happiness.
- Restoring schools and access to education is essential to Syria’s future. With a third of Syria’s children out of school, the children surveyed repeatedly expressed their fears of being uneducated;
- Most children surveyed feel optimistic about the future and their role in helping to build a better Syria – but their key demand to both their leaders and the international community is to protect children and end the conflict.
14-year-old Sara* was injured during an airstrike which destroyed her home in Deir Ezzor, and now lives in a displacement camp in Syria where she completed the survey. She said:
“Before the war my life was very beautiful, and I was happy with my family. I am not so happy anymore. My life and the war are one now. Whenever I hear a plane in the sky, I still get so scared. I think it’s important to ask children about our lives. It’s hard to imagine the future of my country when we don’t even have a home, but I’m still optimistic. I would tell the world’s children not to go too far from your families and don’t play with anything dangerous.”
Kevin Watkins, CEO of the Save the Children, said:
“Some four million children in Syria have been born since the start of Syria’s brutal conflict eight years ago, and most have known nothing but war. Their short lives have been marked by loss, displacement and violence. They need what every child needs – support, security, healthcare, and the education that will help them rebuild their lives.
“Syria’s children did not create the devastation wrought on their country – and they have already paid too high a price for war. Our surveys of Syrian children capture what can only be described as a heroic sense of optimism, hope and ambition in the face of unspeakable adversity. These children need our support – and they have a right to expect our best effort. That’s why we are calling on the UK and the wider international community gathered in Brussels this week to put Syria’s children at the heart of a recovery plan.”
Save the Children is calling on the UK Government to use this week’s donor conference in Brussels to publicly commit to supporting child-focused early recovery in Syria. Parties to the conflict and the international community must also take concrete steps to create the conditions for peace and protect children, while ensuring equitable access to basic and life-saving services.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
* Names Changed to protect identities
- Save the Children surveyed 365 children across North West and North East Syria in 4 hard-hit governorates where almost half (5.28m) of the total number of people have been assessed by the UN as in need of assistance (Idlib, Aleppo, al-Hassakeh and al-Raqqa). 30% of all children surveyed said they always or frequently felt unsafe, 57% that conflict and insecurity is a very serious challenge facing their community, 56% that family breakdown, separation and bereavement is a very serious challenge facing their community and 50% that substandard housing is a very serious challenge facing their community.
- Together with our partners Save the Children works in four Governorates in northern Syria – Aleppo, Hama, al-Hassakeh and Idlib – and have reached more than 750,000 people, including over half a million children, through our programmes. We help to reconstruct schools and provide education, support primary healthcare facilities and provide essential aid items such as food, clothing, kitchen sets, winter kits and hygiene kits to displaced families.
- On Tuesday 12th March, as leaders gather for the Brussels Syria III Conference, Save the Children will place a huge 3D installation outside the European Commission in Brussels. The installation features a drawing by an eight-year-old Syrian girl and shows the horrific violence which has been the backdrop to her childhood.