Children of War, Syria’s Toughest Challenge

(Damascus, Syria) None of the scars of war, any war, but particularly civil conflicts is more heart wrenching than that ruining the lives of children.

Over the past 8 years of war in Syria, thousands of children have been killed, maimed, in addition to hundreds of thousands having been displaced or forced to flee their homes due to unlivable conditions. According to UNICEF, 2017 was the worst for young Syrians in terms of casualties, with 910 children killed, a devastating and unacceptable toll on Syria’s most vulnerable people, and a 50% increase from the  year prior alone.

The prevalence of child labour has increased dramatically throughout the 8 years of conflict.  Some of the most disturbing images have been those of girls as young as 9 years old being photographed or filmed during forced marriages to a jihadi terrorists.  Hundreds, possibly even thousands of underage girls have been kidnapped and forced to marry a jihadi terrorists who are often even older than these girl’s fathers.

The psychological trauma is extremely difficult to mend, for a whole generation of young Syrians who have been brainwashed by ISIS and other fanatical hardliners fighting in the name of Islam.  Elementary school curriculums have been replaced by books aimed  at indoctrinating extremist ISIS beliefs , void of any scientific, cultural, historical or secular values and teachings.

A whole generation of children have grown up amidst the horrors of war, seeing nothing but violence, death, beheadings, crucifixions, shootings, kidnapping and rape.  The rehabilitation of this generation and reintroducing  them to a normal civil life, once the war is over, will likely to be Syria’s toughest challenge.  The lack of a proper educational, cultural and counselling programmes offered by the state, could spell for utter disaster, and may result in the loss of a whole generation of Syrian youngsters who are at risk of being permanently handicapped through the fighting and the subsequent emotional scars suffered from these countless abuses.

“These children have been scared, and these scars are ones which will never be erased,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s director for the Middle East and north Africa.  He urged all parties involved in the conflict to adhere to the once universally accepted norm that children should be protected.

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The UN estimates that approximately 7 million children in Syria require humanitarian assistance. It also points out that 2.8 million Syrian children were internally displaced by the beginning of 2018. By the end of that year, the number of displaced children had reached 3 million.

“Their situation requires specialised treatment and services,’ said Cappelaere. “As children, their needs differ from those of adults: as their bodies and abilities change, so must their care. These children face a very real risk of being neglected and stigmatised as the unrelenting conflict continues.”

Should the long-anticipated battle for Idlib break out, more violent than ever, experts say, a new wave of the dispersming of tens of thousands of children is envisaged.  A massive influx of refugees from Idlib heading to turkey Turkey is seen as a likely possibility, due to proximity of the city to the Turkish borders, and to neighbouring Aleppo, still recovering from the deep scars of war and destruction.

The vast majority of Aleppo’s factories, plants and industrial complexes were dismantled by terrorists and warlords, transported to Turkey and sold there. The cost to rebuild the private sector in Aleppo alone runs into billions of dollars.
Among the most challenging risk categories to gauge, are the psychological effects on young generations. They have spent at least half their lives in conflict, constant danger, deprived of adequate food, education and healthcare. The ongoing effects of this trauma are yet to be revealed.

With major battles expected to rage sooner rather than later in Idlib, along the northern and northeastern fronts, and as the worst crisis in Syria’s history drawing closer to a final showdown, fear of more civilian casualties and a new wave of children of war grows.

There are more than 2 million people, including over 100 thousand terrorists and hardline militants. Over half a million refugees have been displaced from other parts of the country and crammed into the province. It isn’t  difficult to predict the catastrophic outcome in terms of human tragedy, should an all-out war break out in Idlib and the countryside. The humanitarian challenge shall be as paramount as ever.

When considering the number of immigrants, displaced civilians, and the number of those most vulnerable who are suffering, this humanitarian emergency represents one of the most disgraceful situations for the international community and humanity at large. And the worst aspect is that so many different nations have both directly and indirectly funded the plight of the Syrian population for years. In all this time, none have made a consolidated attempt to alleviate their suffering.

Unless  last-minute miracle succeeds in averting what is expected to be a ferocious knockout stage and one the deadliest battles of the war so far, the looming danger of even more human tragedies nears, and a new wave of the most vulnerable victims of the conflict, the children of war, becomes inevitable.