Dreams shattered. Future careers halted. Families displaced. Cries unanswered.
According to a recent report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 5.5 million Syrian children are in need of aid.
This three-year-and-counting strife is showing no end in sight, and the youngest, most vulnerable population is continually getting the short end of the stick.
As of January, UNICEF stated violence has killed nearly 15,000 children in Syria. Kids often are deliberately targeted more than accidental victims of war. They have been killed by snipers or become victims of summary executions or torture. Even places that should be free from harm, such as schools, have been bombed.
The inability of children to attend school is probably one of the largest negative effects of the war, as it puts them at a greater disadvantage in their futures.
UNICEF reported from Geneva that more than 2 million children are unable to go to school in Syria, where classrooms have been bombed, used as shelters or turned into military barracks. Another 300,000 Syrian children don’t attend school in Lebanon, along with some 93,000 in Jordan, 78,000 in Turkey, 26,000 in Iraq and 4,000 in Egypt.
Even if the war ended tomorrow, where would the children start to pick up the pieces and try to begin to live their lives? It is not like they can just restart from the exact moment, place or even mental state they might have been at before the war.
Many are left adrift in the sea of confusion, trying to navigate through unfamiliar emotions of loss, anger and even angst.
Not only has their home changed, but they often become foreigners to their own selves.
Instead of our government solely focusing on providing military relief for the Syrian population, we need to full-heartedly support international humanitarian aid that will allow more funding to go into re-establishing educational opportunities for the Syrian children.
They have seen more bloodshed than one should see in a lifetime. They have witnessed death faster than they can bury or process. All of these images can be internalized forever, leaving a mark that can turn into whirl of other issues later on in their lives.
If they have no opportunities to channel these emotions, such as anger or resentment, it can create a cycle of violence and hatred. But through education, we can begin helping these children restore their lives, try to stop this vicious cycle from forming and be able to give them a better outlook for their future.
Recently, Australia pledged $20 million toward helping children who have been affected by the Syrian conflict through the U.N.’s No Lost Generation initiative. The U.S. has also pledged about $18.65 million.
These already established U.N. programs can provide a reliable medium to target the areas that are most in need to be able to collaborate with both international and local agencies, to help target the populations that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
Although these initiatives can be the steps in the right direction, more follow-up is still needed to ensure that progress is being met.
As American citizens, we hold proud the opportunities we are given for our future.
Why can’t we do the same and extend a helping hand to the group that will be the future face of Syria?
The most vulnerable population shouldn’t be the first one to be forgotten.