“There is nowhere for children to hide in Damascus,” says Rasha Muhrez, who leads the SOS Children’s Villages Emergency Programme in Syria. In spite of the current upheaval, the emergency team is providing practical support and hope to children and families who ask for little more than the right to go to school.
“Alone on Wednesday is estimated that 10,000 people made a run for the border; this is likely to increase. Damascus is unique in that many of the government offices are scattered between residential areas. So an attack on a government installation is likely to affect children who live close by. Therefore, families here have nowhere safe to turn to. Their resources are depleting as food inflation increased twentyfold within hours of rumours emerging that an attack was imminent,” said Rasha.
Providing comfort in a climate of fear
Her rights come first - Providing a loving home and education is a priority @SOS Archives
“Families at the SOS Children’s Village are safe, but the future is difficult to tell. Options are limited. SOS Mothers and staff are comforting frightened children in every way they can. At the same time they have made contingency plans and have first aid training. The children have been trained and know how best to protect themselves in the event of an explosion. In Damascus, SOS Children’s Villages Syria provides a variety of essential provisions to 180 displaced families on a monthly basis. The will tide them over until the second week of September.” In the meantime, Rasha echoes what others are saying across the capital. “We must wait and see, the entire city is in fear of an imminent attack.”
The trauma being endured by children in Syria is unprecedented and unacceptable. It is estimated that at least one in ten of those who have lost their lives in Syria are children. As leaders ponder the country’s future, it is imperative that the wellbeing of children is the number one priority. The rights of the child are paramount. SOS Children’s Villages is calling on all parties to prove that they respect the rights of children. This can only be done if they abide by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Over 60,000 meals provided
In spite of the upheaval, over the past month SOS Children’s Villages Syria managed to serve up a total of 60,000 meals to displaced families in Damascus and Aleppo. Recipients are keen to express their gratitude for the support they receive. Meals were provided to displaced families who would otherwise have missed out on Ramadan - the biggest festive period in the Muslim calendar. The SOS team also managed to spread the festive spirit to the rebel held town of Daraa, near the Jordanian border, where 1,500 cooked meals were provided.
Around 2,000 schools are being used as shelter for the internally displaced. That is over 20% of the country's schools @SOS Archives
Getting 6,000 children back to school
The escalation in the conflict has not detracted the team at SOS Children’s Villages Syria from forging ahead with plans to get 6,000 children back to school in the month ahead. The team is now helping displaced children to source the registration documents needed to get back into the classroom.
As schools have been destroyed or used as homes for many of Syrian’s 4.25 million internally displaced, children will attend school in shifts. SOS Children’s Villages is arranging to pay school fees and provide books and stationary to those who have been deprived the right to education for two years. Due to limited space, many of the children must attend school at night. The initiative is in cooperation with a wider national programme involving the Syrian Trust. Additional plans include the provision of much needed winter clothing and bedding.
“Rising inflation and the ever increasing tension has left children scared, as their parents feel powerless. People on every side of the conflict share the same fears. They all plead for peace, for the sake of their children,” said Rasha Muhrez.