Syria’s Latest Grim Statistic …
One Million Children in Exile.
With Syria’s civil war well into its third year, the United Nations estimates that there are now more than one million Syrian children living outside their country as refugees. They include eight-year-old Aya, who was forced to flee with her family to Lebanon in 2011. At first they waited, but after the Homs massacre, and kidnapping at schools started, they had no choice.
They now live in an informal settlement with more than a thousand other refugees, surrounded by tomato, pepper, and carrot fields in the fertile Bekaa Valley.
Aya is curious about everything and loves to learn, but she hasn’t been able to go to school for most of the past two years. She dreams of studying and wants to become a pediatrician one day. But her father is sick and unemployed and cannot afford the monthly fee of US$20 for the bus to the nearest school.
While her siblings work in the fields to make money, Aya stays behind to care for her sister Labiba, aged 11, who suffers from Downs Syndrome.
Her family says Aya is tough, but also has a sunny disposition that rubs off on others.
1}… Aya (in the blue top) helps her older sister, Hala, make carrot juice in their family’s home in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. She lives with her mother, father, sisters, and two brothers in a small structure made of wood and covered in plastic by a field in Dalhamiyeh.
2}… Eight-year old Aya, on the right, walks home along a dusty road in Dalhamiyeh with her sister, Labiba. The two are best friends. They live in an informal settlement for Syrian refugees.
3}… Aya with her father Mohammad outside their simple home.
4}… A view of the informal settlement in Dalhamiyeh, where Aya’s family lives. The settlement is located in the Bekaa Valley and arid hills can be seen in the background. The settlement contains 128 dwellings and more than 1,000 people.
5}… Happy-go-lucky Aya is kissed by her sister, Labiba. She has taught her vulnerable sister how to go to the bathroom, wash her hands, and dress.
6}… The sisters practice their handwriting. Aya is curious about everything. She’s always asking her older brothers and sisters,
“What is this? … What is this?”
She gets upset if they don’t have time to answer her questions.
7}… Aya and Labiba play hide-and-seek with mattresses received from UNHCR.
8}… Aya and Labiba share a light moment with UNHCR staff member Roberta Russo in their family home.
9}… Aya’s relatives are growing dozens of plants and flowers outside their simple home, which is made of wood and plastic sheeting. According to her sisters, Aya is protective of the garden and helps water the plants.
10}… Aya helps her older sister, Houdoud, prepare the evening meal during the recent Ramadan Islamic month of fasting.
11}… Aya has only attended school sporadically over the past two years. Her family cannot afford the US$20 a month for transport to school. About 50 refugees from the settlement attend the school.
12}… Aya washes her face with the water from a big tank outside her family’s home. Drinking water is available for refugees from a local water source.
13}… Syrian refugees dry their clothes on a fence near the informal settlement at Dalhamiyeh in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
** All photos ~ UNHCR / S. Baldwin
With Syria’s war well into its third year, another shameful milestone has been reached; one million Syrian children have now been forced to flee their homeland as refugees. Over 75% of Syrian child refugees are under the age of 11.
One million children are at risk of becoming a lost generation. They are traumatised, open to exploitation, missing out on school, and their future is unclear. The threats to refugee children also include child labour, early marriage, and the potential for sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Children make up half of all refugees from the Syria conflict. Most have arrived in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. Increasingly, Syrians are fleeing to North Africa and Europe.
One million Syrian refugee children are in need of urgent help. To support them, text ‘NEED3610’ to 70070, to donate £10.
Or donate online at: http://donate.unhcr.org/syria-uk