The ‘Arab Spring’ reached Syria in March 2011 but has been resisted by President Assad’s regime ever since. Protests have been met with a brutal response from the country’s security forces, and civilian populations have been attacked with heavy weaponry. Most noticeably in the Baba Amr district of Homs.
Over 100,000 people are estimated to have died since the violence began, and more than two million have fled over the borders as refugees into Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. A million of these refugees are children.
Stories emerged of children being detained, tortured by, and even used as human shields by the security forces. In August 2013 chemical weapons were allegedly used against civilians.
What we're doing
War Child has staff on the ground in Lebanon – where many of the refugees from Syria have fled. Homs is only 25 miles from the Lebanese border, and many families who were besieged in their homes by the shelling and snipers have escaped into Lebanon. We're also expanding our presence in Jordan - home to Zaa'tari, the second biggest refugee camp in the world.
Many of the refugees have been integrated with the local community and are staying with families rather than in refugee camps. Being dispersed makes it harder to provide services for them. Yet most fled with little more than the clothes on their backs and now find themselves needing to pay for their rent and food.
It’s a bewildering and scary time for many of the children. They really need a routine and a sense of normality. Spending time with each other in a safe, nurturing environment is a great way for children to cope with the stress and upheaval that’s going on all around them.
Creating child-friendly 'Safe Spaces' in Lebanon
We created 8 'Safe Spaces' for over 1,000 Syrian and Lebanese children in northern Lebanon. These provided a sanctuary for children to come to during the day. Often based in local schools, they offered counselling and a much needed sense of normality for children who had lived through some extremely traumatic experiences. We also helped the children resume their education as it seems likely that they won't be able to return to their schools in Syria in the forseeable future. We've now handed over the running of this project to our sister organisation War Child Holland - who have a big presence in Lebanon anyway.
Supporting child refugees in Jordan
Our work in the Za'atari camp has started and we'll soon also be working with refugee children in the towns and villages that surround it. We have a child-friendly 'Safe Space' set up and we are working with local Jordanian and Syrian volunteers to deliver our 'DEALS' programme - which is a methodology we specialise in. It's a way of giving children an informal education and building their resilience to cope with the upheaval and trauma they've experienced.
Although the camp is a refuge from the violence in Syria, it is a dangerous place for children to live in and most of them don't go to school - that's something we're tackling by training teachers, providing safe transport to and from the schools and providing 'Back to School Kits' for the students.
If and when it is safe enough for the children and their families to return to Syria, our projects will follow them back home and help them reintegrate back into their schools and communities.
Working with local partners in Jordan
We work with a number of local organisations in Jordan:
Habaka Charity Association
Sareeh Charity Association
Kitim Charity Association