Invisible wounds: Syria's children

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The Syria Crisis is now six years old, and the humanitarian situation is worse than ever.

As always, it’s the children who are most profoundly affected. Almost all of the protective networks in place to protect children – healthcare, schools, communities – have been destroyed. After six years of war, Syria is facing a serious mental health crisis that risks leaving millions of children with potentially irreversible psychological scars caused by consistent exposure to the extreme trauma of war.

We know from talking to children in Syria that the reality is dire, especially in relation to their mental health and wellbeing:

  • ongoing bombing and shelling is the number one cause of psychological stress in children’s daily lives.
  • two out of every three children have either lost a loved one, had their house bombed or shelled, or suffered war-related injuries.
  • 50% of people we talked to said they knew of children who had lost the ability to speak or suffer from speech impediments since the start of the war.
  • loss of education is having a huge psychological impact on children’s lives, with half the children who are still able to attend school saying that they never or rarely feel safe there.

Although the outlook seems bleak, it is not too late. As well as atrocities and suffering, the research found glimmers of hope. Syria’s children are incredibly resilient. What came through clearly in the research is that despite all they are going through, many children still dream of a better future, of becoming doctors and teachers who can contribute to building a peaceful, prosperous Syria.

All they want is the opportunity to do so.

While it is imperative that basic needs like food, medicine and shelter are met, our research clearly shows that psychological assistance must be a key part of the equation and not an afterthought.

If the issue is not taken more seriously, the consequences for children will be especially dire, causing long-term damage to their physical and emotional health. We know it is relatively easy to integrate the necessary psychosocial support into existing programs. But we need funding to make sure that this happens across the board and that no children are left behind. 

There are things we can do, now. Please help us urge the Australian Government to be part of a global commitment to support children’s mental health and wellbeing in emergencies.