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Children losing their childhood in Syria

This week, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that up to 4 million people face going hungry this winter in Syria since it is no longer possible to deliver aid supplies safely.

Already, the WFP has reached around 1.5 million people, latterly delivering blankets and cooking fuel before the winter sets in. But the organisation has already begun pulling out non-essential staff as the United Nations suspends aid operations.

As the 20-month civil war continues, the WFP head promised to “keep as many staff in Syria....for as long as we can”. But with little security in many areas and lacking access and equipment, aid operations have become impossible. It is also becoming harder to ship in supplies as flights to Damascus have been cancelled after several attacks on the airport.

Up till now, supplies have mainly been distributed through local partners such as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. The local aid agencies have in particular been supporting families forced to flee their homes and staying with others or in public buildings. The BBC’s reporter recently overheard a group of children talking in Damascus. Despite the cold winter weather and dangers, they had come together on the street to meet up and find out where everyone was living. One child reported that he was staying with relatives since his house was demolished, while another said he was living in the basement because his home had been burnt out.

Speaking to the children, the reporter established that they were no longer going to school and it was much harder to go out and play games. The youngsters and their families are very conscious of the dangers, particularly after whole groups of children have recently died in shelling incidents. One boy in Baba Amr told the reporter “I do not have friends any more. They all died.”

Visiting another family, the BBC’s reporter met a boy who’d recently lost an arm and leg when he ventured out to buy bread for his family in the east of Damascus. The youngster was determined to be brave about his condition, affirming that his injuries would not stop him becoming a teacher one day. He still managed to put a smile on his face.

But however brave the children of Syria are trying to be in coping with their losses, there is, as the BBC’s reporter points out, one thing they will never get back. Amid all the destruction and violence, and with all the talk of deaths and attacks, these children will never recover their carefree childhood.

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