March 15 is the five year anniversary of the uprising that lead to the Syrian civil war. To commemorate the day, UNICEF released a brutal report about the consequences of the war on Syria’s children. And the report contained a deeply disturbing statistic: one in three Syrian children were born during the war. In other words these children–3.7 million of them–know nothing but war. UNICEF says that that more than 300,000 were born as refugees, their lives “shaped by fear, violence and displacement.”
Behind these statistics are individual children. Young Khaled was at home in Aleppo when his house was bombed.
“Something came screaming from the sky and our house was on fire,” his father remembers. “It was chaos. And when I realized that Khaled was inside I felt like I was going mad. I tried to find him.” He wipes his eyes, as he remembers. The fire that resulted from the attack left Khaled alive, but permanently scarred. The family fled along with hundreds of others, seeking refuge in an informal settlement in northern Lebanon. “Children with life-altering injuries are falling through the cracks everywhere, particularly in refugee settings where there are no formal camps,” says Arwa Damon, a renowned journalist and the founder of an organisation delivering surgical care, INARA. UNICEF linked Khaled with the foundation, where he underwent surgery and months of after-care to repair his face.”
The glimmer of hope, such as it is, is in the fact that over the past two weeks levels of violence in much of Syria has declined significantly. A a partial truce is taking hold, just as internationally supported negotiations in Geneva kick off this week between rebel forces and the government.
The outcome of this round of talks is unclear. But no matter what happens, this new report from UNICEF shows in stark terms the degree to which the international community is going to need to support a generation of war scarred Syrian children to live up to their full potential.