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Ending the War on Children

Basma* was in her elementary school classroom near Damascus, Syria when the building was hit. This curious 8-year-old is eager to learn, but violence has displaced her family multiple times. This has meant different schools, none as good as the one back home. When another school she attended was hit, 20 students died.

Basma*, 8, is from southern Syria but fled from her home when her school was attacked in an airstrike that injured many of her friends. Photo:  Khalil Ashawi/Save the Children
Basma*, 8, is from southern Syria but fled from her home when her school was attacked in an airstrike that injured many of her friends. Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Save the Children

Sadly Basma’s experiences and fear do not make her unique. In a new report just released by Save the Children and the Peace Research Institute Oslo, we found that 357 million children around the world live within conflict zones. That’s more children than the entire US population living within 31 miles of conflict. Many of these kids have never lived in peace.

In Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp last year, I met boys and girls who, like Basma, don’t get to attend the schools back home their parents dreamed of sending them to. Save the Children is running early education programs in the camp so that these children, forced from their schools, are able to build the crucial foundations of their educations.

If a kid’s childhood is impacted by conflict, what will her future be? Trends show that conflicts are lasting longer. For example, Afghanistan has had at least 17 years of conflict and conflict has afflicted Iraq for the better part of 15 years. In the most dangerous countries for children in conflict, fighting can take away entire childhoods.

All aspects of a child’s life can be impacted when she lives in a conflict zone. More mothers are dying in labor at home because they cannot access health facilities, or are afraid to because hospitals are commonly targeted in modern fighting. Children who do survive birth in conflict zones may not have access to healthcare as they grow up for the same reasons. Diseases prevented by vaccinations in peace-time, like polio and diphtheria, take hold, compounding the threats children face. A child’s mental health can be impacted into adulthood due to the trauma of violence.

Conflict is more dangerous for children now than at any time in the last 20 years, and attacks on schools are the “new normal.” Today, 27 million kids worldwide are out of school due to conflict. Some have never been inside a classroom. The interruption of education has a long-term impact on children’s futures and the socio-economic recovery of a country.

All children deserve a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm, but conflict can rob all of this from a child. It is the responsibility of the international community to protect children from the horrors of war. We must commit to preventing children being put at risk, upholding international laws and standards, holding violators to account and rebuilding shattered lives.

Protecting children affected by conflict is Save the Children’s founding mission, and nearly 100 years later, it remains our top priority. Our founder Eglantyne Jebb said, “Humanity owes the child the best it has to give.” It is difficult to dream about the future when, like Basma, all you’ve known is war. We owe children childhoods free of conflict.

One year-old Hakaroom sits with her mother Lokuru at a Save the Children supported health centre in Kapoeta, South Sudan, after being treated for severe pneumonia.

The Injustice in Dying from Pneumonia

When Lokuru brought her 1-year-old baby to get food at Save the Children’s stabilization center in northern Kapoeta, South Sudan, she had another concern on her mind. The night before, her daughter Hakaroom’s breathing had become heavy and labored. Her small body was starting to feel hot. A nurse at the center recognized Hakaroom’s symptoms as pneumonia and sent her to the Primary Health Care Center, where the infant was treated for severe pneumonia with antibiotics and fluids. All of Lokuru’s four children have suffered from pneumonia at some point in their lives, but Hakaroom’s case was the worst. According to the Save the Children medic who treated Hakaroom, without immediate medication, she would not have lived through the night.

Nearly 1 million children died of pneumonia in 2015. I continue to be shocked by that fact. We know how to prevent, diagnose and treat pneumonia, and we have known for a long time. So why do so many children around the world still lose their lives to this disease?

You often hear people describe an illness with the cliché, “it doesn’t discriminate.” I want to be clear: Pneumonia discriminates.

Pneumonia is a disease of poverty. Ninety-nine percent of child deaths from pneumonia occur in developing countries. Within these high burden countries, it is the poorest and most marginalized children who are at greatest risk. A child should not die because of where she was born or what resources her family has.

The world’s poorest children are more likely to suffer pneumonia risks such as malnutrition, indoor air pollution and a lack of primary healthcare. If they do get sick with pneumonia, they are the least likely to get medical treatment. Each year, about 40 million cases of pneumonia are left untreated.

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Because inequality can be fatal, Save the Children has committed itself to reaching Every Last Child. Our organization is working to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest and most marginalized children around the world. When the United Nations developed the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, it proposed that by 2030, no child should suffer a preventable death. We cannot achieve this goal if we do not overcome pneumonia.

Save the Children is a leader when it comes to combatting pneumonia. We have been preventing and treating the disease in children for decades. We can prevent pneumonia by increasing immunization, addressing undernutrition, ensuring safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and reducing household air pollution. Most cases of pneumonia can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics.

To end pneumonia deaths for good, the global community needs to come together with equitable solutions. We’re asking Congress to increase funding for USAID’s Maternal and Child health programs and to support and pass the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

To learn more about how Save the Children is fighting pneumonia for all children and how you can help, please visit SavetheChildren.org/pneumonia.

Helping Families in the Wake of Hurricanes Harvey & Irma

When I went to Texas after Hurricane Harvey hit, I met families who had already been through the unimaginable—fleeing their homes in waist-deep water, carrying a few precious belongings over their heads, and trying to find a safe space for their children in huge shelters not designed for the littlest evacuees.  Now that the immediate danger is past, they are dealing with the uncertainty of what their homes and futures hold.

 

In the midst of the chaos, Save the Children is helping kids cope. We set up Child Friendly Spaces in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas—bright, welcoming places for children to play with volunteers trained in helping children through trauma. We distributed supplies like cribs, strollers and wash basins to families in shelters across Texas and in Louisiana, so that parents can care HurricaneHarvey_Carolynfor their babies and toddlers. And now we’re supporting child care centers so they can get back up-and-running—helping parents get back to work and helping children get back to learning and playing.

 

As always when disaster strikes, the poorest communities are hit the hardest—and the effects of this storm will be felt for a long time. Save the Children’s Board Chair, Dr. Jill Biden, visited a mega shelter in Houston last week and met with families who have lost so much. Board Members and Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner visited shelters and child care centers and showed families that Save the Children will be there for them in the long-term.

 

Even with recovery underway in Texas, Save the Children turned our attention to Hurricane Irma. In Florida alone, more than 4 million children were potentially impacted during Hurricane Irma and nearly 200,000 people were in shelters across the state. As families return to their homes and rebuild, we have supplies for babies, toddlers and children ready for distribution wherever they’re needed most.

 

The American public’s generosity to their neighbors has been wonderful to see. We were honored to be part of the Hand in Hand telethon last night to benefit the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and I’m so grateful for the ongoing support for families and children who have seen their world turned upside-down.

 

We know that children’s needs don’t end when the rain and flooding stops. Save the Children will be there for kids today, tomorrow and over the coming weeks and months to help them cope, rebuild and plan for the future.

 

Carolyn Miles’ Statement on Charlottesville

I watched in dismay as the repercussions from the events that recently took place in Charlottesville, Virginia rebounded across the United States and around the world. As a global movement committed to ensuring all children have the future they deserve, the demonstration last weekend is counter to everything Save the Children is trying to accomplish for children at home and abroad. Further, it’s contrary to the values I believe America embodies and holds most dear: tolerance, acceptance and love. I would submit to you that Americans are among the most generous people on the planet. Helping others is ingrained in our spirit.

I worry about the example this sets for our children here in the United States. For the benefit of our country today – and for future generations – we must hold our leaders to a standard of promoting our shared values and being unified against racism, misogyny, Nazism, and violence. We must ensure that we each have conversations with our own children about what happened and help them understand the fundamental difference between the freedom to speak up and demonstrate versus placing one race, gender, or class above another. Starting at home, and with your help, we can set the right tone and instill the values Americans hold dear in our youngest and most formative citizens.

Five-year-old Karkar tries to drink water from a faucet near his home in the Eshash el-Sudan slum in the Dokki neighbourhood of Giza, south of Cairo, Egypt September 2, 2015. Residents of the slum clashed with police in late August, when about 50 ramshackle huts were destroyed and at least 20 people were injured by teargas, local media reported, as authorities attempt to clear the area and rehouse residents. The slum dwellers, some of whom have called Eshash el-Sudan home for 50 years, say there are not enough apartments built nearby to house them. The residents of the slum eke out a living by disposing of rubbish or baking bread. Schooling is too expensive for most of their children, who play with salvaged rubbish amid shacks made out of discarded wood and leather. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah DalshSEARCH "ESHASH EL-SUDAN" FOR ALL PICTURES       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Despite Progress, Too Many Children Are Still Dying From Diarrhea

Originally published on HuffPost

Photo by Amr Dalsh / Reuters

Why are children still dying from this preventable and treatable illness?

In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the world changed dramatically. The smart phone was introduced. New planets were discovered. Yet children were still dying from a preventable and treatable illness that has plagued the world since the beginning of time.

A recently-published study in the medical journal “The Lancet” showed that deaths from diarrhea among children under 5 dropped by 34 percent from 2005-2015 — a major step toward ensuring that no child dies of a preventable or treatable disease. But half a million children still die from diarrheal diseases every year and millions more are sickened by unsafe drinking water, which turns a simple sip of water into a potentially life-threatening act for a vulnerable child.

As the fourth-largest killer of the world’s children, diarrhea is a particularly infuriating enemy. Clean water, proper sanitation and good hygiene practices can keep children safe from the water-borne illnesses that make them sick and deaths can be prevented with low-cost interventions like oral rehydration salts and, more recently, vaccines. These seem like simple solutions — but for a child living in poverty, without access to basic health care, and with a body that may already be compromised by malnutrition or other preventable illnesses, a simple fix is anything but.

Over the past 15 years or so, Save the Children has been working to strengthen the communities where children at risk of childhood death live — to reach children in the hardest-to-reach places in the world. By training and equipping community health workers to correctly diagnose and treat pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, we have been able to contribute to a massive reduction in child deaths worldwide.

In Bangladesh, which the study notes saw a 60 percent reduction in under-5 deaths from diarrhea from 2005-2015, Save the Children has helped decentralize pneumonia and diarrhea treatment from formal health facilities (mostly in large population centers) to community-level facilities. More than 1.2 million sick children received services from trained village doctors working in local clinics and communities, and 2,000 children were referred to formal health facilities for further treatment as needed.

The progress in Bangladesh and around the world is encouraging, but it’s not good enough and it’s not happening fast enough. Approximately 1,400 children still die every day in the world’s poorest communities and diarrhea-related illness, which can leave a child weakened and susceptible to other illnesses, has only fallen by about 10 percent in the past decade. So if we want to give every last child the opportunity to have a healthy childhood, we’re simply going to have to do better.

Using what we know works and leveraging local communities to deliver life-saving medication, we can further reduce diarrheal death and illness—and make huge progress toward Sustainable Development Goals #3 (“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”) while we see the benefit of fulfilling #6 (“Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”). This study is a great start, and it reminds us that we need more data to build the evidence for what we know works and to spark innovation around new solutions that will help save more lives.

The data shows us what’s possible. Our experience shows us what’s doable. Now we must show children that we refuse to measure progress in decades or centuries or even millennia, but in the healthy childhoods that all children deserve.

Carolyn in village 2

Innovation Born of Crisis

The woman, wrapped in a colorful head scarf and long flowing dress, sat on a cement step in the middle of a remote village in northeastern Somaliland.  She proudly showed me the small mobile phone and the Save the Children registration card bearing her photograph.  Then she told me how it was transforming her life, in the midst of a horrific drought.

The small phone, with money transferred from Save the Children’s drought relief program into a monthly account, meant her children could eat and continue to go to school. It gave her the independence to ensure that funds were going to meet her family’s greatest needs.  And it allowed her to go to local shops and buy what she needed, using funds of about $90 per month transferred from her phone to the merchant’s phone in small increments—so no actual money changes hands. This allows her to pay for her weekly needs each time she goes to shop, despite the fact that all her assets had been lost.

A woman with cash transfer via mobile

 

The people in this region depend on livestock like goats and camels.  Their whole life revolves around moving from place to place with their animals to graze, selling a few goats a month or a camel twice a year to support the entire family.  But when the drought started last year and the rain failed to come, there were no more grasslands for grazing and no water to give to the animals. First a few died, then several more each day. Many of the women I spoke to on my visit this week had lost all their animals.  Those with larger herds had gone from 200 goats to just 40 over the last few months.

The cash program managed by Save the Children and other partners and funded with money from the European Union serves as a lifeline for these families.  And because mobile money can be transferred directly to the phones (which are also provided if recipients don’t have one), it is a secure and efficient way to ensure that money gets into the hands of mothers who will use it to benefit their children.  We can also benefit from the data available through the telecom companies, which details how much has been used each month and at what merchant—allowing us to track usage and patterns to improve our programs for families in dire need.

Carolyn in village

 

Best of all, the children of this community are not going hungry, they are staying in school and they are able to survive one of the worst droughts to hit Somaliland in decades.

And even halfway around the world in the middle of an extreme drought, I found that some things about new technology are true everywhere.  When I asked one of the women if they had trouble learning how to use the phone, they said no…they just got one of their children to help them.

Just like me and every other mother around the world!

Shashank Shrestha/Save the Children

Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!

Originally published on HealtyNewbornNetwork.org

Midwife Rita helped deliver Rupa and Rajkumar’s first-born daughter this year at the newly constructed Taruka health facility in rural Nepal, a facility Save the Children helped rebuild after the devastating 2015 earthquake. The proximity of a health post and availability of a skilled auxiliary nurse midwife helped save the newborn’s life. Even though Rupa had visited the health post often to ensure her pregnancy was proceeding, she was still anxious as her delivery approached. She had heard awful stories of women losing their lives during childbirth. But by delivering in a health facility with a skilled, well-equipped, and respectful midwife, both mom and baby survived childbirth and the days following without complication.

Rita’s story is just one of many we should celebrate today on International Day of the Midwife. However, there are other stories that won’t end as happily. Today, nearly 830 women will needlessly die giving birth, more than 7,200 babies will not survive childbirth or the last three months of pregnancy, and another 7,300 babies will die within the first hours and days after birth. That adds up to 303,000 women and 5.3 million infants every year whose lives are lost. Nearly all of these deaths could be prevented if high-quality services were available to every woman and baby everywhere.

And while 99 percent of these deaths happen in developing countries, rich countries like the United States are not exempt. Thousands of families suffer the tragedy of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity every year in developed countries.

This week, US celebrity Jimmy Kimmel shared his emotional story about his son’s heart defect on national television and expressed praise and appreciation for the midwives who supported his family throughout the process. Jimmy said, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” This statement is no less true in low-income countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. And for marginalized populations, like those who live in hard-to-reach areas, and are victims of conflict and humanitarian crises.

No mother – anywhere – should have to risk her life or that of her baby by going through childbirth without the expert care of a midwife or other skilled birth attendant. Yet, globally, one in four women gives birth without such care. And 2.2 million give birth all alone. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2015 there would be a shortage of more than 3.5 million health workers – including a million midwives. This means that mothers and children have no one to diagnose and treat their illnesses, provide immunizations, or help them stay healthy.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife is Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life! Partnerships are central to midwifery. Midwives partner with women, families, and communities to provide lifesaving healthcare to mothers and babies, from before pregnancy to the first months after birth. They collaborate with doctors and facility staff to devise treatment plans and deliver high-quality, respectful care. They serve in government ministries and other decisionmaking bodies to make policy and funding decisions that ensure midwives have the resources they need. And they teach, mentor, and supervise to ensure midwives both practice what they know and learn new skills.

Ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths requires more qualified midwives, more empowered midwives, better resourced midwives, and more respect for midwives. How can we strengthen these partnerships? For one, we can listen to midwives’ voices. The upcoming Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives is another opportunity to engage with midwives to strengthen support of their work. I am making it a priority this week and in the coming weeks to listen to the voices of midwives.

If you are a midwife or want to recognize a midwife for her partnership for life, please write to the Healthy Newborn Network with your story and we will be sure to share it.

Sorghum bags being dispatched from Jijiga to drought-affected areas in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Photo by: U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa / CC BY-ND

Foreign aid works for us all

Sorghum bags being dispatched from Jijiga to drought-affected areas in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Photo by: U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa / CC BY-ND

Originally published on Devex.com

Leaked documents reported this week suggest the Trump Administration would like to cut foreign aid by more than 30 percent and possibly merge the U.S. Agency for International Development with the State Department. This proposal comes despite the fact that we are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II—there are more people fleeing war and persecution than ever in history—and famine conditions are threatening parts of the Middle East and Africa.

I’ve recently heard some critics say that foreign aid does not work. This could not be farther from the truth. Dollar-for-dollar, it is one of the most effective uses of our taxes. One penny of every dollar in the total U.S. budget goes to helping families in other countries—a small investment that saves lives and helps millions of people every year. Strong U.S. leadership during the last 25 years has helped cut extreme poverty in half and led to half as many children dying around the world from preventable illnesses like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. We need to build on this progress rather than allow it to lapse.

America currently spends nearly 50 percent less on foreign assistance, as a percentage of gross domestic product, than during the Reagan administration. Further reducing this budget would hinder the U.S. government’s ability to help respond to disasters – natural and man-made – including those that know no borders, like the recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Being prepared to respond quickly to the next disease is just as critical for U.S. citizens as it is for those at the epicenter of the outbreak.

Countless times, I’ve seen firsthand how U.S. foreign assistance works and saves lives. I recently visited Jordan, a country that is committed to welcoming families fleeing violence and persecution in neighboring countries. More than 650,000 Syrian refugees, half of them under the age of 18, are now in Jordan, and the U.S. provides significant foreign aid for refugee programs in the country. That support feeds young refugee children, offers children the chance to get back into school after years of being away from home and provides vocational training for Syrian youth to give them hope for a productive future. This U.S. funding is essential if we are to avoid a lost generation of young people who can eventually help put their country on a better path.

In addition, today nearly 20 million people in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan face the threat of starvation, and famine has already been declared in South Sudan. Save the Children is on the ground working with partners, including USAID, to provide lifesaving water, food and treatment to these children and families whose lives depend on our help. U.S. foreign aid is critical for preventing and addressing famine, yet proposed budget cuts would eliminate funding for the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) that helps us prevent and respond faster and more efficiently to famine conditions around the globe.

Preparing for drought before its worst effects take hold is on average three times more cost-effective than emergency response, as illustrated by studies in Ethiopia and Kenya. Pair this with the World Bank study that calculated disaster risk reduction saves $4-7 for every $1 invested, and it’s clear that our foreign aid investments are not only the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective but also from a fiscal perspective. To put it simply: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Promoting health, education, gender equality and economic opportunities for communities around the world leads to more stable societies, which are critical to our national interests. A group of more than 120 retired generals and admirals agree and sent a letter to Congress in February stating, “The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism – lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.”

The international affairs budget is a triple win: it helps U.S. economic and national interests, it helps people prosper, and it saves lives. These proposed budget cuts and the folding of USAID into the State Department would deeply hurt America and our neighbors. We all need to do our part by telling our members of Congress that this funding is critical to our wellbeing.

Hope is running out (2)

Hope is Running Out

As I sit on the plane on the way back from Beirut, Lebanon, typing at 30,000 feet, my mind keeps going back to one of the more emotional moments I’ve experienced in a long time.  I’m back to a small set of chilly cement rooms where a mother, father and three children live in northern Lebanon, listening to them tell me about how they fled here after years under siege in their home village of Hamah in Syria.  The family had seen such heartbreak that it was hard to take it all in during our brief time together but now, at cruising altitude, it hits me like a fist.

Perched on thin mattresses on the cement floor, we asked the mother and father about their journey and what life was like for them.  They started by thanking Save the Children for the help we had given by putting doors and windows into the bare concrete walls, in installing a sink and toilet in the apartment, and making the stairs safe to use.  The father talked about how he has only been able to get sporadic work in the northern Lebanese village; Syrians are only allowed to work in construction, agriculture or low-skill odd jobs and it meant their resources were incredibly stretched.  A young boy, less than two years old, sat in his mother’s lap and a cute, energetic 4 year-old played peekaboo with me and giggled loudly.  Then one of our team asked an innocent question – why was their 8 year-old son, stirring under a blanket on the raised platform bed in the room, not in school?

The father looked down and we saw the pain cross his face as he told us that his son, Haddi, fell from a two-story balcony in the unfinished building eight months ago, shattering his hip.  After two unsuccessful operations, he had a third one three weeks before our visit; this operation cost the family all of their savings and put them further into debt.  His mother began to cry as she told us how they had tried to get him to the best doctor they could find and showed us the X-rays—images that showed three screws in a small, fragile hipbone. This boy was not in school because he was in intense pain and had barely moved since they brought him back from the hospital.  I saw the shocked look on the face of our local team member who managed the work on the apartment, who had not seen the family since before the accident and had no idea it had happened.

We tried to think of what to say to this family, to give them some hope that their son would be okay.  In a circumstance I can only describe as fate, one of our visitors with me on this trip was from the Pacific Northwest and her daughter had been in an accident as a young girls and had the same operation for her crushed pelvis.  She comforted the weeping Syrian mom as best she could, telling her about her daughter’s story and full recovery.  But we knew that was with some of the best medical care in the world and months and months of rehabilitation. This was not after three surgeries, laying on a wooden bed with few medicines, no wheelchairs and no daily visits from a physical therapist. We wanted to give some hope but you could see in the parents’ faces that for this family, hope was fading.

Later we spoke to our team about trying to get more medical care for Haddi, care that would probably stretch the emergency fund we keep for such dire cases to the limit. We will somehow find a way to help him.

But there are so many sad cases as the Syria crisis moves into its seventh year.  So many thousands of cases of children’s lives lost or shattered, of childhoods cut short when 11 year-olds begin to work picking vegetables, when 14 year-old girls are married to “keep them safe”, when children leave their families to go on their own to try to get somewhere safer, better, saner.

As we spoke to some of UN partners the next day, I sensed some hope that, though it would be difficult, maybe on the horizon there will be a time when some of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon feel safe enough to begin going back home. But as the war now stretches past the duration of World War II, I worry for the Haddis that we don’t reach, that we don’t know about, for whom hope and time is truly running out.

Please help us provide support and hope to Haddi and his family—and so many others like them—by donating to our Syrian Children’s Relief Fund.

Firas* sits with his daughter, Layla*, five, at an abandoned petrol station where he and his family now live. .The petrol station, badly damaged by war, is now the home of five families who have returned to Tel Abiad district, Raqqa Governorate, Syria, after fleeing from ISIS two years earlier only to find their homes destroyed.

The day the Syrian war becomes longer than World War II

Originally published on Devex.com  

After six years of war, people were weary and on edge. Neighborhoods were hardly recognizable. Fresh food was a luxury that no one had. Schools were closed or moved elsewhere. Children’s bodies displayed pealing burns that only a bomb could cause. Nearly everyone knew someone who had been killed.

It’s hard to know whether I’m describing the end of World War II, or Syria today. Both wars battered entire generations of people, but one notable date separates these two horrific events. Today inexcusably begins the seventh year of the war in Syria, and on Friday, the war in Syria will become longer than World War II.

Sadly, the psychological toll of war is one of the greatest similarities between the two and will have the longest lasting impact in Syria, just as it did after WWII. We need to invest more in psychosocial support and make another concerted effort to convince all sides to end the violence.

Daily exposure to the kind of traumatic events that Syrian children face will likely lead to a rise in long-term mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and social anxiety. Living in a constant state of fear can create a condition known as “toxic stress,” which, if left untreated, can have a life-long impact on children’s mental and physical health. Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child reports that toxic stress can disrupt the development of the brain and other organs and increase the risk of stress-related diseases, heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, depression and deep-rooted emotional scars.

Among the 3.5 million Jewish people who survived World War II in Europe, and the 183,000 people who survived the atomic bomb blasts in Japan, many are known to have suffered from physical and psychological problems decades after the fighting ended. Research done by the Never Ever Again organization in Scotland even shows that the grandchildren of Holocaust and bomb survivors have experienced secondary and transgenerational trauma.

A new study conducted by Save the Children inside Syria shows that people are feeling the psychological effects of war: 84 percent of adults and almost all children said that ongoing bombing and shelling is the number one cause of psychological stress in children’s daily lives. And 48 percent of adults have seen children who have lost their ability to speak or suffer from speech impediments as a result of living in such a dangerous and uncertain environment.

A teacher we work with in the besieged town of Madaya told us that children are psychologically crushed and tired. “When we do activities like singing with them, they don’t react at all, they don’t laugh like they would normally. They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and lack of food.”

Another teacher told us that children have been so traumatized they express wishing they were dead because at least heaven would be warm and would offer food and a place to be safe and play.

While the world has clearly not learned the lessons of past wars in many respects, as the war in Syria continues, one lesson we can learn from World War II is the importance of addressing psychosocial issues among children early and often.

U.N. Security Council members, and other countries that have been unable to bring warring sides to the negotiation table, need to increase investments in mental health care inside the country and insist that all sides agree to a minimum set of measures to ensure the protection and safety of children in Syria.

Programs that support children’s resilience and well-being must also be given special attention and additional funding. Children are incredibly resilient but only if they are given the proper outlets and tools to recover and thrive. Programs to support parents could also help children feel more supported.

Finally, relatively small investments to train teachers and school personnel in conflict sensitive approaches to education, such as art therapy, would yield positive results now and into the future.

In the U.S., Congress should take such critical investments into consideration as it determines the 2017 international affairs budget. Cuts now will hurt Syria’s children in the short and long term.

Children who survived World War II in Europe and Asia went on to become Nobel laureates, actors, scientists, fashion designers, teachers and more. Syrian children hold the same potential, but as the war drags into its seventh year, individuals and leaders must summon the will and the means to support children during this horrible time.