The conflict in Syria has turned into one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world. Failure by the government to quell unrest that broke out in March of 2011 eventually led to the civil war that continues to rage nearly a decade later. As of 2016, the UN estimates that the death toll reached more than 400,000 people. Furthermore, approximately 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced and an additional 5.7 million Syrians are registered refugees in surrounding countries.
Infrastructure has been destroyed, meaning that food production has drastically dropped, and 70 percent of people lack access to sanitation and clean water. Approximately 13 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance across the country, more than half of whom are women and children.
The Devastation of War
Claims that the war is stalling directly contradict a report by UNICEF exposing that 2017 has been the worst year for the children of Syria, the country’s most vulnerable population. Figures placed the death toll for children at 910, an approximate 50 percent increase from the previous year, and the highest recorded since the conflict began.
Young populations are not only at risk to suffer permanent damage in the form of physical maiming, but they are also highly susceptible to afflictions of an impalpable nature. Violations of children’s rights including forced marriages, involuntary labor, recruitment for war and poor access to health care and education have the potential to inflict long-lasting emotional trauma. Bearing witness to the destruction of traditionally safe environments like schools, hospitals, and their own homes can be completely destabilizing, especially for young minds.
The Effects of Trauma
Psychological trauma in youth is a commonly overlooked condition and is often more difficult to treat. Abuse suffered in children under the age of three is especially alarming, as it can be detrimental to overall, long-term mental development. Abuse may manifest itself in the victim through erratic behavior, socialization problems and delayed development. Moreover, some children go on to imitate the abusive behaviors they are exposed to. When observing the Syrian conflict through this lens, it is difficult to imagine a bright future for the children of Syria.
Fighting for Change
Although the future of millions may seem to disappear in the shadows of war, education ensures that it is not fully lost. Infrastructure has been demolished in much of the major fighting areas, like Damascus, but families are still fighting to find ways to ensure children of Syria exercise their right to learn. To do this, more than 10,000 Syrian students risked their lives crossing active lines to reach exam centers in 2016. In these cases, UNICEF is making sure students are provided with safe accommodation and hygiene supplies as well as classes to exam prep.
This organization is working to reach 1.8 million children with formal education and school supplies. An astounding 4.9 million children continue to have access to education because of these efforts. Moreover, the organization plans on continuing aid to those most vulnerable by aiming to vaccinate over 3.5 million children against polio, screen more than one million women and children for malnutrition and provide 510,000 children with winter clothes.
The Next Steps
It seems that an entire generation of children will have to bear the weight of the civil war on their shoulders. And while efforts to prevent further abuses have proven futile thus far, some studies suggest that continual positive reinforcement for children in difficult times can help them overcome these potentially detrimental situations. For the children of Syria, these positive influences can be found in supportive school teachers or loving family members and even helpful foreign aid workers and volunteers. Participating in basic aspects of pre-war lifestyle — like going to school or playing with friends — can bring positivity to a harsh daily reality.
As long as children of Syria are fighting to survive, the world must fight for them as well. In providing basic human needs and continuing to battle for young minds by protecting education, hope still remains. In the aftermath of the fighting, physical and mental rehabilitation efforts will be paramount to propel children towards healthy and productive lives.
Helping the World’s Poor
The funds of the International Affairs Budget are imperative for helping the world’s poor, and initiatives that can save millions of lives should be supported. Currently, the International Affairs Budget makes up only a mere one percent of the U.S. federal budget, but impacts all aspects of life in the country and abroad.
As poverty rates dropped and malnutrition was cut in half globally over the past 20 years, it has created emerging markets for U.S. companies. Additionally, more than 45 percent of all U.S. exports are now exported to developing countries. Both job creation and national security in the U.S. are linked to the plight of the world’s poor.
However, the White House proposed a budget that seeks to decrease the funds allocated towards foreign aid. Specifically, the proposed budget calls for cutting global anti-poverty programs by about 30 percent. This funding for the State Department and USAID helps provide lifesaving treatment against diseases like tuberculosis, addresses malnutrition, helps ensure more children attend school and much more.
Supporting the International Affairs Budget furthers the global poverty reduction effort. This can be done by contacting Congress through this link.
– Natalie Abdou