Friday, 29 November 2013

Syria’s Lost Generation: What hope for children born in war?

Children are the future, a common knowledge. With the conflict in Syria raging on, humans right violations and atrocities continue to be committed on a daily basis. Children have become the most vulnerable victims, with their future lives being dramatically implicated upon. On Wednesday evening I went to a talk organised by Leeds Friends of Syria, LUU Save the Children and ONE LEEDS society. Salli Martlew from the high profile international Save the Children and Dr Ayman Al Jundi from the smaller grassroots charity Syria Relief talked both of the immense atrocities and what is being done for those who can’t help themselves.

The facts are horrific. 11,420 children have been killed. 7 million people, 1/3 of the population have been displaced, a figure larger than the populations of many of the neighbouring countries! In both Lebanon and Jordan 1 in 4 people are Syrian, an astounding figure and half of the refugees are innocent children. Over 2000 schools have been bombed and only in 1 in 10 now receive ‘formal’ education. The figures continue on a mind numbing scale, as do the stories. Hope for children in the war may seem diminished when concentrating on these figures. Below is a heart-wrenching video of what kids have become accustomed to dealing with:

However, positivity can come through from the actions ordinary people, in a country as far removed as our own, have taken. Save the Children are working on two fronts: to provide practical support and to give a voice to those who don’t have one; and to let the perpetrators know the world is watching. However, Save the Children are somewhat up against a wall since aid is still not allowed to cross the border into Syria. This means 2/3 of their work is concentrated in some of the largest refugee camps the world has ever seen. The continued denial of humanitarian access across the borders is baffling. However this is where the beauty of small grassroots organisation and collaboration really comes to play.

Syria Relief became an officially registered charity in 2011 and has raised £4.5 million so far, of which 92% has been spent inside Syria!! This has happened because the founders and trustees are well respected Syrians based in the UK, thus can cross the border and are part of a whole network that large international charities could not dream of. The strength of the small charities is not necessarily the funds they can raise but their ability to deliver and get in. By collaborating and presenting project proposals to larger charities who have the money, the two can work together to make a real, fundamental difference to many Syrians both inside and out of the country. Syria Relief has established new schools, set up social programmes including orphan support and provided food and food security through sanitising water. Their aim is to not only help immediately, but to set up sustainable efforts. One such is craft workshops organised for women refugees in Jordan. The items they make are sold abroad and then Syria Relief channels the money back to them ensuring those women involved and their families have essentially their own money to live on.

The achievements of a grassroots charity are astounding and inspiring. The ‘lost generation’ of Syria is a heartbreaking subject and awareness still needs to be raised. However the talk showed how successful and important collaboration and the simple actions we take can be. Check out the links below for more, including a petition to get parliament to help get aid into Syria!!
  • One of the major hindrances of humanitarian aid is that they are simply not allowed in. Below is a petition to get the issue discussed in British parliament, in the hope they will advocate humanitarian corridors into Syria, amongst other things:

  • Ellie Goulding has produced a song for Syria with Save the Children. Download to donate to Save the Children! The video is harrowing - will make you re think all the news headlines that are easy to drown out! 

Jessica Papworth

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