Children form about 45% of the Syrian population, and around half of the 9.3 million people urgently in need of aid. Many are among the 6.5 million people who have been forced to leave their homes and settle elsewhere in the country as a result of the violence.
The effect of the war on Syria's children is hard to imagine. Most children living in temporary shelters do not go to school. Many parents are too concerned for their children's safety to allow them to attend. Those who do enrol often stop attending because they face discrimination or bullying from their peers. Leaving the home they have known all their life leaves children disorientated and often it is hard to adjust to a new way of living. Many parents struggle to care for their children because of the deep damage inflicted by the constant violence and unpredictability of war.
Life in a warzone
A key part of our emergency relief programme in Syria is our child-friendly space in Damascus, which helps children return to something approaching normality. Operating from the SOS Social Centre located within our Children's Village in the suburb of Qodsaya, thirty trained volunteers and child-development specialists provide daily support for children living in temporary shelters for displaced people, both in Damascus and the countryside beyond.
The space is designed to bring relief from the distress of leaving home and living in a warzone. We help children develop coping strategies and find a way through the psychological difficulties brought about by witnessing violence and suffering massive upheaval.
Practices are varied and sometimes surprising. In a situation where chaos and unpredictability reign, storytelling not only captures children's attention, but provides a sense of structure and moral order. In stories, villains can be conquered and demons destroyed. Children are encouraged to participate in storytelling themselves so that they can express their thoughts and wishes within a medium they can control.
This is only one of many approaches adopted by our team in Damascus. Through writing, poetry and drawing, children can express their hopes and fears, and our child development experts can use the children's output to learn more about their individual needs and problems. All of these activities are therapeutic, too. Even planting and growing seeds can help damaged children re-establish their capacity for attachment and ultimately friendship.
Constant support at a time of crisis
We were there for Syria's most vulnerable families long before the war began. As the nation's crisis has escalated, we have been a constant presence, drawing on decades of expertise to provide care and support for the most vulnerable.
Since the crisis began, we have:
- Provided food, shelter and bedding for families forced from home by the war.
- Supplied nourishment to new mothers and their babies.
- Helped 16,000 children return to school by providing equipment, uniforms and support with tuition fees.
- Provided 60,000 substantial meals to displaced families.
- Supplied warm clothes and bedding to families forced to weather the winter in unheated temporary accommodation.
The best way to help is to sponsor a Syrian child. This way, you can be sure a vulnerable child will grow up in a loving SOS family with all the support they need to thrive:Sponsor a child in Syria
Find out more about our emergency relief work in Syria.