A decade of conflict and violence has turned Syria into one of the most desperate places in the world. The Syrian crisis has had the worst effect on children, some of whom have lost their lives to the conflict, and thousands of others left homeless. Even basic needs like food and shelter have become so scarce that other conditions like education and healthcare seem non-existent for these innocent children.
We want to shed some light on the children’s crisis, especially for those who have lost one or both of their parents, and highlight the horrendous conditions they have to survive.
1. Status of Orphaned Syrian Children: What the Numbers Say
In 2013, UNHCR released a report stating that over 70,000 families in Syria had lost their fathers, and almost 4,000 children were without both parents, either orphaned or separated from them. A journal from 2016 mentioned that about 1 million children were estimated to be orphans in Syria. But a more recent report from earlier this year mentions that in the city of Idlib alone, there are 1.2 million orphan children. These numbers would make anyone wonder what the figures might be for the entire country today.
A press release from UNICEF from March 2021 stated that the Syrian conflict had caused deaths or grave injuries of 12,000 children in the last ten years. In other words, about three children have been killed or left injured every day over the last decade. But even those that have survived all these years are subjected to a fate that some may feel is worse than death. There aren’t exact figures regarding the number of orphaned children in Syria, but a recent report from the International Committee of Red Cross mentions one in six children stating that one or both of their parents have been killed or sustained grave injuries.
2. Syrian Children Recall Their Nightmarish Experience
A first-hand account from a father of five kids mentions that the children have not even been able to play outside. Instead, they have learned to identify the type of weapons and explosives being used just by hearing their sound in the distance. One of the children stated that he would think of whether he would live to see the next day every night and that fear had become “a permanent state of mind.”
The family managed to flee the country and seek refuge in Germany after going through a difficult journey. Though away from the conflict and violence, their struggle would be far from over as they had to wait two weeks to register as refugees in Germany. And during that time, they would have to stand outside without shelter from the sun and rain. But given the horrors they faced in Syria; their current ordeal was merely a mild inconvenience.
Not all children shared a similar fate. Thousands are still struggling for survival in Syria or in refugee camps in neighboring countries. The numbers can account for those who are in camps, shelters, and orphanages. But countless orphaned children are trapped in the streets of the country. These kids may have survived the bombings, but they are unsure of how long they will survive. Even if they manage to find freedom, they will forever live with the scars of violence.
An account from 2015 shows the trauma faced by a Syrian child who was then five years old. She lost her father in 2011, when she was just two years old, and couldn’t even remember him clearly. Her brother was so heavily traumatized by the experience that even small noises nearby would make him startle and jump.
A 2015 report from the International Medical Corps highlighted the increase in mental health problems among Syrians. First-hand experience of all the violence, combined with a severe shortage of healthcare, has caused intense mental health issues among Syrians. Orphaned children are even more vulnerable to such problems, developing conditions such as depression, PTSD, and schizophrenia. In fact, a UNICEF director also stated that “one in four children have signs of psychosocial distress.”
The story of a 10-year old Syrian child mentions how his father was shot dead before his eyes and the devastating mental trauma it had on him. Later on, the child was taken in by an orphanage but struggled to adjust due to severe mental and behavioral issues. After continued efforts for rehabilitation, he was slowly able to open up and reclaim his childish innocence.
Another haunting account from a 2016 report mentioned the story of an orphan girl being raised by foster parents. She was still in her mother’s womb when her family – her father, mother, and their two children – were traveling in a car that was hit by a missile. The mother was rushed to a hospital while the rest of the family died on the spot. Her mother breathed her last, making the little infant the only survivor. On one hand, it was a blessing that she lived but on the other hand, it is devastating to think about how she came into this world amidst such a tragic incident.
3. The Need to Support Syrian Orphans
These stories were told and recorded, but there is no account of thousands of orphans who desperately need care and shelter. Orphans who are still in Syria face a grim future where death can be at their doorsteps anytime. Those who flee the country face a new challenge – to meet their basic needs each day. And even if safety, food, and water are available, they live with mental traumas that could affect them for many more years to come.
The only hope for these innocent children is for organizations, governments, and individuals to come together and support them. The conflict is not their fault, and no child should have to go through what these Syrian children have experienced. Only through a collective effort of people, charities, and authorities can the orphans of Syria dream of a stable and straightforward life someday. Sunrise-USA works to support Syrian orphans with food, education, supplies, and medical care, and your contributions help us with this mission.