In light of the seemingly hopeless situation in Syria, Global Washington, an organization that catalyzes critical collaborations among other global development organizations, leaders and citizens of Washington State, would like to highlight the amazing work of one member organization, Save the Children.
At just nineteen months-old, Syrian child Sham muttered her first word: “enfijar” meaning “explosion,” according to Save the Children’s “Childhood Under Fire” report on the civil war’s effects on children in the region. Children throughout Syria have been traumatized by constant shelling of their cities, watching their schools and homes crumble, losing loved ones and fearing for their own lives. Many children are sick and cannot find any open hospitals. Many have fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Others find it too dangerous to flee by walking on the streets. One study cited in Save the Children’s report claimed three in every four Syrian children interviewed had lost a loved one, two in three had been in a situation where they felt in great danger, and one in three had been hit, kicked, or shot at. Numerous Syrian children both within and outside Syria, are going hungry. It is safe to say that the children of Syria need help, and that’s why Save the Children has been doing everything they can to ensure the safety and continued development of children throughout the region.
As of July 2013, the organization, which works in more than 120 countries helping children thrive, has already reached 250,000 people throughout Syria, and 650,000 people in total throughout the entire surrounding region.
“Our support for children in this emergency is comprehensive, including food, clean water, vouchers for their families to purchase basic supplies, and shelter,” said Francine Uenuma, Director of Media Relations and Communications at Save the Children.
One of their key projects is the child-friendly spaces they have set up in refugee camps to provide thousands of children with a safe place where they can go to play and be normal kids. Many kids show signs of extreme emotional stress, such as bedwetting, hair pulling, nightmares and aggressiveness. Often, children given a paper and pencil to draw, have produced violent images like the one below, reflecting what they’ve seen.
“At the same time, children who have left and been in an environment where they can process their experience do start to draw more positive, bright images,” said Uenuma. “This is one of the activities we do in child-friendly spaces.”
These spaces, like this one in Jordan, provide psychosocial support to help the children cope with their experiences. Most of these children were also forced to stop attending school when the crisis began in March, 2011. Many of them say that they just want to go back to school and see their friends. Returning to schools in Syria that have already been destroyed may not be possible, but Save the Children has set up temporary schools for refugee children, such as one near an abandoned prison in Lebanon where families have taken refuge. Children learn basic skills so they do not fall behind.
And yet, many children have even more immediate needs, such as for food, clean water, hygiene supplies, medical supplies and warm clothing. Save the Children has responded by distributing food baskets consisting of rice, oil and tinned fish, and supporting partner organizations in their efforts to provide flour for bakeries to make bread. In Jordan, they are working with the World Food Programme to distribute 500,000 pieces of pita bread to residents every morning. In addition, they have helped provide over 700 families with clean water, and have distributed over 1,500 hygiene kits. Many women are also using milk powder unsafely as a breast milk substitute for their babies. Save the Children is supporting its partners in counseling women to encourage breastfeeding, checking the babies for malnutrition, and showing women how to sterilize water to make milk powder safer.
But Save the Children doesn’t only focus on projects that provide basic resources to the masses. It also has programs that are designed to help people really get off their feet and become successful, while also helping the crisis situation.
“For us the impact is not just about these large-scale programs,” said Uenuma. “In northern Lebanon, for example, Save the Children has a cash-for-work program, where those who are trying to provide for their families’ basic needs work on projects that benefit the community. One father, Khaled, raised the concern [that]children at one school were endangered by nearby falling rocks after heavy rains as well as speeding cars near where children played. He then became involved in the construction project to build a wall around the school.”
With over half of the refugees of the crisis being children (according to the UN), it is impossible to provide every child with everything they need, but Save the Children is certainly trying. Its goal is to expand the organization’s operations in health, education, protection, and food security further into Syria, but that is difficult to do when humanitarian organizations are being barred from entering the country. Save the Children especially needs further support from the US public to reach those within Syria who need help.
“The conflict in Syria has been going on for more than two years now,” said Bernice Romero, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for Save the Children. “It is easy for people’s eyes to glaze over and change the station when they see yet another image of war on their television set, but we need the American public to remember that these aren’t just news stories, but real people whose lives have been devastated. We need them to let US government leaders know the public cares and wants the US government to remain engaged, both by supporting humanitarian assistance and pushing for a negotiated solution. Sending this message and supporting the work of organizations like Save the Children through donations, are small ways that individuals can help make a difference.
For more information about how you can help Save the Children help kids in Syria, you can go to their website.
Global Washington is the only organization of its kind with a unique focus on organizations with a Washington State presence who share the goal of making the world a more equitable and prosperous place. In a few short years, we have gained the support of many of the most influential players in our state – not only nonprofits, but businesses, academic institutions, member associations, and government agencies.
Sources: Save the Children, ABC, Francine Uenuma, Director of Media Relations and Communications at Save the Children,
Bernice Romero, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for Save the Children