Living in Limbo

Syrian children across the region have it very tough. There are now almost three million refugees who have fled Syria since the war started more than three years ago and an estimated 50% of them are children. They spread across five countries, with the highest number in Lebanon—nearly 1 million refugees living there in informal camps and in towns and cities. The country with the second highest number of displaced Syrians is Turkey, where most refugees live along a border that has not only geographic but cultural, historic, and economic ties with Syria.

 

Carolyn_Turkey_blog_2014Children here face many challenges, including the fact that most older children cannot go to school because they don’t speak Turkish. Families move constantly, trying to find work to make enough to feed themselves. But the children who have it toughest are those who are orphaned or are unaccompanied and living with extended family. Being a Syrian orphan means your father has died and thus you and your mother likely do not have any support unless family members or aid steps in to help.

 

We found a special kind of support for these children when we visited a local school. An amazing woman we met, Rana*, runs a school for orphaned Syrian children living in Antakya, giving them a bright and cheery school in which to spend their time with instruction in their native Arabic and, importantly, tutoring in Turkish and English as well. The school swells with up to 300 children in a tiny three-story house when school is in full session. When we visited, it was the start of summer vacation so there were about 60 children ages 4 through 13. Most of the children were smiling and playful, though painfully there were a few who hung back and only looked at us with sad eyes when we tried to play and smile with them. All of them had lost at least one parent—some both—and had been taken in by aunts, uncles or neighbors coming from Syria.

 

Save the Children is supplying some emergency aid to the school in the form of summer clothes and shoes, as well as school materials, but it’s not enough. Rana struggles to find support for the school, needing to pay the rent, teacher salaries, cost of instructional materials, and transportation costs to allow the children to get across town to attend. She is also raising two disabled boys as well as two other children and, despite those challenges, she raises much of the funding for the school herself. Her selflessness makes her school a bright spot for children who have been through so much, and still face so many challenges.

 

As we ended our visit, one of the youngest girls posed proudly outside the school as the bus pulled up to take her home. Rana and her teachers stood on the curb ready to help the children onto the bus. It was an ideal picture of happy student and steadfast teacher—but the circumstances are far from ideal. I hope on my next trip back to Turkey I can see Rana’s work with children grow even stronger thanks to greater support for the Syrian refugees now living in Turkey.

 

*Names have been changed.

South Sudan: Six Months of Fighting, a Generation of Children at Risk


Anonymous

Dan Stewart

Save the Children , South Sudan

June 15, 2014

 
 

Six months ago today, fighting of shocking brutality erupted in South Sudan.

The toll of those months of conflict makes grim reading: more than 500,000 children have been forced to flee their homes and are now scattered across the bush, staying in overstretched communities or bunched together in camps, their lives in limbo.

Three-quarters of those hit by the crisis are under 18

There are 95 schools that remain occupied by armed groups or displaced people;  a quarter of all schools in the country are closed.

Image001_SouthSudanCommunities are cut off from supplies with families surviving on leaves and grass. Famine looms. Unless swift action is taken, 2.5 million children face a hunger crisis and 50,000 are likely to die of malnutrition.

More than 9,000 children have been recruited into armed groups since the fighting began, while at least 22,300 have been affected by grave violations including attacks on schools, sexual violence and abductions.

South Sudan’s children have suffered for six months. The question is, what kind of future will they have?

Building lasting peace and security

I have seen children responding with courage, hope and determination. All parties involved in the fighting should follow their example.

These brave children are at serious risk, not just from the violence but from the psychological impact of what they have already been through. Without psychosocial support now to help them recover from their traumatic experiences, the events of these past few months could scar their entire futures.

Dwindling food stocks, rising prices and empty stomachs

Many communities are trapped: completely cut off from possible help. To travel along roads that cross the front line? “That is the end of your life,” I have been told.

Other, less dangerous, roads have become impassable as the rains turn rough roads into muddy quagmires.

In remote areas, families already eating grass and leaves have told me their food supplies will run out completely by the end of June. The rains will also become too heavy then to plant crops.

These children want to learn

These people desperately need seeds and tools now so they’ll have a harvest in the autumn. Otherwise, the hunger crisis will only deepen. And they need food to see them through until then.

Yet with all the hardship, hunger and uncertainty, children tell me they want education above all. They are right to want this: the longer a child is out of school, the further they fall behind and the more likely they are never to return. South Sudan’s future depends on giving its children their right to learn.

Six months on from the start of the crisis the need to act could not be more urgent. Save the Children is doing whatever it takes to bring children protection, education, and treatment for malnourishment. We need your help to reach more children. Their future hangs in the balance.

 Donate to help the children of South Sudan.