War in Syria: Children dodge bullets and bombs

After two years of fighting, the prolonged conflict in Syria risks leaving an entire generation of children scarred for life, says a new UNICEF report.

By James Addis and Patricia Mouamar
Published March 15, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

“Don’t be scared; the bombs will not hit us.”

These are not the words of a mother reassuring her child. They are the words of Jouri, an 8-year-old girl, reassuring her mother as bombs fell close to them in Yarmouk, Syria.

Children, families flee for their lives

Yarmouk, a Palestinian settlement near Damascus, became the scene of intense fighting and was heavily bombed last October.

Jouri and her family fled to Lebanon, leaving behind everything: their house, their business, and Jouri’s favorite place — her school.

Jouri was brave, but she and her two siblings remained frightened. She says every bomb meant people were dying.

“We saw the planes. Some passed very close over our heads,” she says.

Sniper fire, explosions, and loss

This week, a new UNICEF report titled “Syria’s Children: A Lost Generation?” says after two years of fighting, the prolonged conflict in Syria risks leaving an entire generation of children scarred for life.

Anita Delhaas-Van Djik, World Vision’s national director in Lebanon, where tens of thousands of refugees have sought safety, agrees.

“Children tell stories of sniper fire in their street, bombings of their homes, losing loved ones. So many families have lost everything,” she says.

The report goes on to say that in areas of most intense fighting, access to safe drinking water has fallen by two-thirds, hospitals and health centers have been destroyed, and skilled medical staff have fled. One in five schools has been ruined or is being used to shelter displaced families.

The Lebanese Ministry of Education authorized its public schools to accept Syrian refugee children at the beginning of this academic year, but space is limited and the educational infrastructure is poor.

Most Syrian refugee children struggle with language difficulties because the Syrian educational curriculum is in Arabic, whereas the Lebanese system includes English and French.

‘Best thing that happened to me’

To help meet the needs, World Vision launched educational projects for Syrian refugee children.

About 120 children benefit from an accelerated learning program to prepare them for enrollment in Lebanese schools.

Among them is Jouri and her 7-year-old brother, Khaled. “Coming here is the best thing that happened to me since we left Syria,” Jouri says.

World Vision supports a further 300 refugee children, already enrolled in schools in Lebanon, with daily remedial classes.

Two ways you can help

Pray for children and families impacted by the violence in Syria. Pray especially for families who have been separated due to the conflict, and pray for emotional and physical protection for vulnerable children and families.

Make a one-time gift to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Your gift will help us provide basic hygiene kits and food vouchers for refugee families, as well as established Child-Friendly Spaces to provide affected children with a safe place to play, learn, and interact with their peers.