By Alexis Herr
The United Nations News Center reported earlier today that bloodshed in Syria has now forced one million children from their homeland, of whom 740,000 are younger than eleven. UNHCR and UNICEF estimate than an additional two million have been internally displaced. This blog post will assess the challenges facing young Syrian refugees and internally displaced children through the outstanding work of three aid organizations laboring to support and protect Syria’s youngest victims.
Save the Children is a leader in the field of children’s rights and has launched a number of programs that focus on heath, education, supplies, and nutrition. In order to gain access to refugees fleeing Syria, Save the Children has created programs in neighboring countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon) to support children in refugee camps. Creating “Child Friendly Spaces” for young refugees, Save the Children provides youngsters with a comforting place to play, learn, and grieve. Offering children a safe place to play provides them with an outlet to release their pain and just be kids.
International Rescue Committee has embraced countless refugees inside Syria and beyond its boarders. Within Syria, IRC operates in a dozen informal camps providing food and water. Focusing their efforts on children, IRC created three primary schools within the camps (a fourth is the way) to provide for some 1,400 children, many of who had not set foot in a classroom in over a year. Prolonged conflict often robs children of an opportunity to receive an education, thus IRC’s service to Syria’s youngest victims helps ensure Syria’s youth will have a brighter future.
Mercy Corps is working with young Syrian refugees in Jordan by providing playgrounds, sports fields, and helping disabled children gain access to school. Mercy Corps hosts psychosocial support programs and roaming storytelling workshops to held children process their trauma and join their community. Tending to the emotional health of young refugees ensures that their mental health and development are not forgotten.
The one million “landmark” of Syrian children refugees marks a sad day in history. Thankfully, Save the Children, IRC, and Mercy Corps are working to ensure that Syria’s one million child refugees will not be a forgotten generation and instead the hope for a better Syria.