The Children of Syria
After 7 years of war, Syria has become the most dangerous country to be a child. Out of a population of 18 million, 5.3 million children require humanitarian aid, 1.2 million live in hard-to-reach areas and 170,000 are currently trapped in besieged zones. Basic services, such as education and health, have collapsed under the strain of violence. In all regards, the conflict has proven disastrous for the children of Syria.

The Situation

Before the Syrian Civil War, school enrollments rates were around 87.5 percent; in 2018, however, 6 million kids need educational support while over 2.1 million are presently not enrolled at all. This standing is largely due to combatants viewing schools and other educational institutions as targets for bombings, killings and abductions. Such targeting then results in the destruction of over a quarter of the schools in Syria.

More than half of the hospitals and clinics in Syria are closed, damaged or lack proper medicine and health professionals (15,000 of the 30,000 Syrian doctors have fled the country). Alongside these statistics, vaccinations have increasingly become less common. An outbreak of polio has affected 80,000 children while another 200,000 have died from chronic diseases.

Lack of access to food and water has become widespread across Syria. As of June 2018, an estimated 11.2 Syrians required emergency food assistance. Conflict, displacement and blocked transportation routes have resulted in an ever-increasing malnutrition rate of 11 percent among the Syrian youth. Furthermore, access to clean drinking water has become a significant issue due to the destruction of infrastructure.

While these numbers are used by some to describe the children of Syria as the “lost generation,” there are plenty of examples of foreign aid groups working to reverse these trends.

The Response

Numerous organizations across the globe have taken up the gauntlet to help this population. The following are three of which who have had quite the widespread, long-lasting impact.

  • UNICEF. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is one of the prime cases of the effort that’s being done in Syria. Through U.N. programs, 956,000 children have been enrolled in formal education, while another 60,000 were placed in non-formal education. UNICEF has vaccinated 2.7 million children under the age of 5 for the polio virus and has provided 2.5 children and women with primary health care professionals. In fact, 1 million youth and pregnant women are reported to be either treated or under active treatment for malnutrition. By establishing emergency facilities and repairing water and sanitation systems, UNICEF has restored 6.5 million Syrians with access to clean drinking water.
  • USAID: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has proven to be an effective asset in foreign aid to Syria. In July of 2018, a joint food assistance program between USAID and the U.N. World Food Program was able to supply more than three million Syrians. During July of 2018, USAID and WHO delivered around 50 metric tons of medical supplies to health officials in Dar’a and As Suwayda’.
  • Save the Children: Save the Children Federation, a U.S. non-profit, has shown the strength of individual donations toward helping the children of Syria. The organization has aided 1.7 million Syrian children by delivering services and supplies to refugee camps and besieged areas. Primarily, the group has provided medical supplies and educational items to prevent the stoppage of learning and development.

These agencies and organizations seem to be too large for any one person to make a difference, especially when the number of children being helped totals in the millions. However, many of these groups rely fully or partially on individual funds in order to do what they do.

How Americans Can Help

Making an impact doesn’t require a whole lot of money or time. Every individual act helps turn 1 saved child into 1 million saved children. Here are some ways for Americans and/or any global citizen to make a difference in the children of Syria’s lives:

  • The Borgen Project. The Borgen Project focuses on getting U.S. leaders to support, and utilize resources, for global poverty reduction efforts.
  • UNICEF. UNICEF has helped millions of children throughout Syria, but struggles to meet targeted goals due to insufficient funding (44% under requested budget for 2018).
  • Save the Children Foundation. Save the Children relies entirely on donations for helping supply children with medical and educational support in at-risk areas.
  • USAID. Although USAID does not accept donations, there is a list of approved organizations that do in regards to Syria.

Individualized effort can create powerful change, and the ways individuals across the globe and in various organizations are aiding the children of Syria have the potential to save, rather than lose, a generation.

Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr