Prolonged exposure to violence and stress, multiple displacement, loss of friends and family members, and a severe deterioration in living conditions are leaving the children of Syria with lasting scars, UNICEF said today.
“Parents report that their children are experiencing frequent nightmares and exhibiting reckless and aggressive behaviours,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Bedwetting is common and children have become more withdrawn and clingy. Their drawings are often violent and angry with images of bloodshed, explosions and destruction.”
UNICEF estimates that more than 4 million children are affected by the ongoing conflict.
“Children who have undergone profound stress can lose the ability to connect emotionally to others and to themselves,” says Jane MacPhail, a UNICEF Child Protection Expert working with children in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. “Basic feelings can stop and children find themselves unable to think ahead or remember recent events.”
Whether inside Syria or in the neighbouring countries, in shelters for displaced persons, refugee camps or host communities, UNICEF has been working with partners and families to help children regain a sense of security, give them opportunities to express themselves, and help them develop constructive ways to cope with the conflict.
This includes child-friendly spaces where children can play and engage in recreational and sports activities. It also includes training teachers and school counselors to provide support and refer children in need to more specialized care.
Since the beginning of the year, nearly 470,000 Syrian children have received emotional support in more than 220 child-friendly spaces, as well as in alternative learning environments like school clubs. The numbers include 250,000 children in Syria; 128,000 in Lebanon; 80,000 in Jordan; 5,500 in Iraq and 5,000 in Turkey.
Inside Syria, UNICEF and partners have kept centres open and functional even in areas where conflict has been most intense like Homs, Dera’a and Aleppo, providing vital support to children experiencing some of the conflict’s most intense violence.
“Helping children deal with fears and insecurity is not a luxury,” Calivis said. “Parents who see their children reconnecting with their childhood have become our best advocates for this service.”
Of UNICEF’s $470 million appeal for Syria and region, $55 million was requested to fund child protection activities.
The UK public can donate £5 to UNICEF UK’s Syria appeal by texting the word DONATE to 70099. £5 can provide a family with water for a week. To donate online visit www.unicef.org.uk
Notes for editors:
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Rose Foley, UNICEF UK: + 44 (0)20 7375 6077 / M: + 44 (0)7964 296 431/ firstname.lastname@example.org
UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation for children, working in over 190 countries to help every child realise their full potential. We work with partners to transform the lives of children everywhere. UNICEF provides health care, water, nutrition, education and protection for children. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are our priority. As champion of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we work to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit unicef.org.uk