Collapsed building in Syria.

Akram's Story

When 12-year-old Akram lost his sister in a rocket attack in Syria he thought he would never feel the same pain again. “But what happened in the earthquake and what’s happened since, it is much more difficult than what we experienced” he says. This is Akram’s story.

Trapped Under the Rubble 

Akram was sleeping at his home in northwest Syria when the first tremors of the earthquake started. “It was a slight jolt at first”, he says. “My parents woke me up. But we decided not to leave the building.”  

Moments later, the tremors became so strong that the heater in his room started shaking uncontrollably. Before he had time to move, bricks from the roof fell on top of him. Akram was knocked unconscious, trapped beneath the rubble.  

“The next thing I remember my father pulled me out and woke me up by splashing water on me” he continues. “The walls were falling down on us.” 

As the first tremor subsided, his mother attempted to jump to safety from the second floor. “But before she could make it, she fainted” says Akram “I thought that was it - we wouldn’t make it.” 

Akram, Syria, 2023.

Left With Nothing 

Yet, in the time that followed, by some sort of miracle, he and his family managed to escape. Akram said “My father was injured, his leg was broken and my mother had many fractures in her shoulders and ribs. But together we were able to get her out from under the rubble and carry her downstairs…” 

A whole new meaning to teamwork. 

The next day, the family would make their way across barren countryside to his grandfather’s home. Their new home was a freezing tent in an IDP camp where the last evacuees of the 12-year conflict hold on for dear life.  

Now, Akram and his parents are a haunting symbol of the region’s shrinking aid effort. While emergency supplies and funds pour into Türkiye, northwest Syria remains close to abandoned. Only a handful of NGOs are active in the region - War Child being one of them… 

Psychological First Aid 

In fact, War Child doesn’t have a physical presence on the ground - our operations are made possible through close collaboration with local partners. Since last Monday, we have worked tirelessly with these partners to roll out a response. Our goal is to reach families just like Akram’s with lifesaving necessities such as food and shelter - but also with vital protection and psychological support.  

“In emergency situations like these, we offer a specific kind of support known as ‘psychological first aid’” says Kieran King, War Child Head of Humanitarian Programming and coordinating our response. “Just like regular first aid, this assistance does not set out to cure or substitute a trip to the hospital, but it does provide a tried-and-tested framework for responding directly to anyone experiencing psychological distress.” 

He continues: “We’re not saying that this takes precedence over medical aid, food or a roof over a child’s head. But we do recognize the need to incorporate psychological support in the basic emergency response package.” 

“After all, if a child is frightened or beset with anxiety; if a child has flashbacks or recurring nightmares, do they feel hungry? Are they able to sleep?”  

Long-Term Aftershock 

Back to Akram…The scary thing is that these kind of experiences - of pain, fear and human disaster - are nothing new.  

Only a few years ago, he was mid-lesson when bombs rained down on his school. “I remember seeing the warplanes” he says “I remember being scared.” 

His older sister was teaching at another school a few blocks from his. She was killed in the attack. 

While it’s hard to imagine how his situation could get much worse, Akram contemplates that it just might. “That was a scary incident and difficult days” he says “But what happened to us in the earthquake and what’s happened since - it is much more difficult than what we experienced.” 

In this moment he seems much wiser than his years.  

Akram: “I wish my sister would come back to life but this is impossible. God willing, I will meet her in heaven.” 

How can you help?

For thousands of children in northwest Syria, time is running out. Many are sleeping in makeshift shelters in freezing temperatures, with no electricity, water or other essentials.

donate now