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Four years of war: Syria’s lost generation

3.5 million children have been displaced, separated from their families, and deprived of education and proper healthcare
3.5 million children have been displaced, separated from their families, and deprived of education and proper healthcare

“I remember walking with my family in the hot summer beside the citadel,” says 12-year-old Hassan. “My father used to buy all of us ice-cream and sing on the way back. I wish we were stuck in that memory forever.” Today, his father is dead, and Hassan is one of 3.5 million Syrian children who have lost their homes, their families and their childhood. They are Syria's lost generation.

Just a few years ago, 12-year-old Hassan led a normal childhood. When the war came, things changed suddenly and brutally.

Left with nothing

Hassan from the temporary care centre in Damascus, Syria
Today, Hassan is receiving care at the SOS centre in Damascus – we are doing all we can to reunite him with his family

Hassan lived with his family in the Damascus district of Al Mleha, but when the war came, this once peaceful neighbourhood became the conflict's frontline. Soon, the destruction and fear became too much. “My uncle called us saying that he was coming to pick us up in his pick-up car,” says Hassan. “I remember that day very clearly, when mortars fell behind us while we were trying to make our way out. One mortar landed too close. A piece of shrapnel pierced my father’s heart. His shirt was full of blood. He fell [from] the car and died.

“I screamed and cried, begging my uncle to stop the car – but he said: ‘Do you want to die too? Mortars are still falling behind us. I can’t stop the car now.’ I watched his body getting smaller and smaller as the car moved away until it disappeared.”

Hassan spent the next two years living with his grandmother, but for him, the trauma was not over. One day at school, he stayed in the classroom during playtime due to a headache, while his friends played outside: “I was looking through the window when a mortar fell in the middle of school yard and killed them. Their blood covered the ground and I remember running out of the school not even knowing where to go or hide.”

What will it take?

Hassan's story is not unique. More than 3.5 million Syrian children have experienced some level of trauma during the four years of Syria's war.

“Amid the horror and despair of a fifth year of conflict in Syria, it is children and young people who are suffering most,” says Richard Pichler, CEO of SOS Children International. “They are being killed and injured, tortured, displaced, and deprived of their rights to safety, education and a future. Many have lost parental care. Large numbers have no care at all... It is no exaggeration to speak of a ‘lost generation’. SOS Children’s Villages and other organisations are acting, but what will it take for this shameful suffering to end?”

Child friendly space in Damascus
Project leader Rasha Muhrez with children from the child friendly space in Damascus
Since the conflict began, we have helped more than 88,500 Syrian children, most of them refugees living within Syria. Today, we are caring for Hassan, and over the coming year, we will care for another 1,000 children separated from their families by the war. As well as offering shelter, we will provide healthcare, nutrition, vocational training and psychological support for up to a year.

What else are we doing?

  • Child friendly spaces: Providing a safe environment so internally displaced children can enjoy security and the opportunity to improve their well-being. We will offer places for 10,000 children over the next year.
  • Food: Providing food for 25,000 people – including 15,000 children – in four key locations, including Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. Each food basket will feed a household for two months.

What can I do?

You can help us provide care, food and support for vulnerable children by making a monthly donation to our work in Syria. Your money will be spent where the need is great, whether that be to provide for families afflicted by war or to support the children living in our Children's Village in Damascus:

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