“Saba and Elaf” is a drop in the sea of ​​tragedy. Children of camp inmates in Syria are “born as adults”

A one-minute video of the past few days was enough to convey the voice of two Syrian girls, Elaf and Saba. They spoke on one of the sidewalks in the camp where they live in the north of Syria, carrying the worries of adults in a childish dialect: “Imagine, uncle… we sleep cold and hungry… we have no firewood. .”

And while many answered these two girls, after their story spread on social networks, hundreds of thousands of children in the north of Syria are still waiting for an “answer” that will lift them out of the reality they live in, and activists say that “Al-Hurra” is the story of the orphans “Saba and Elaf” a point in their lives. “Sea of ​​Tragedy”.

There is no sign on the horizon to resolve this tragedy, while its aftermath continues to transform children’s thinking about play into an exploration of the cold atmosphere and a desire for warmth within the walls of a canvas tent. From thinking about learning to taking care of parents and thinking about “firewood”, and experiencing the bitterness of life in displacement, far from the atmosphere of “one family” of relatives, aunts, uncles, aunts and uncles.

About a year ago, the girl “Saba” arrived at an orphan camp in northern Syria called “Istanbul Village Camp”, accompanied by her mother, three sisters and brother Hassan.

The same applies to her companion Elapha, who arrived at the same time with her four sisters and brother Muhammad.

Both girls, according to what one of the camp officials told Al-Hurr, are orphans after the father of each was “martyred” years ago in the Jabal Al-Zawiya area of ​​rural Idlib province.

He added that the families of both girls live on a monthly amount of 700 Turkish lira, in addition to a “basket of aid” provided by humanitarian organizations operating in the area.

“Living conditions were difficult for Saba and Elaf, and the same was true for their widowed mothers. The older the child got, the greater his demands,” said the same speaker, pointing out that after their story spread to social media networks, several organizations provided them with humanitarian aid, including firewood, clothes, auxiliary supplies and shoes, and the emergency services in the meantime launched an action to respond to their calls called “Give them warmth”.

This team was one of its members who first published the video of “Elaf and Saba”, which met with great interaction among Syrians and Arabs.

And the official in the camp felt that “the model that people saw on the video, which covered the world, is a specific part and very, very simple… for children in northern Syria, especially orphans who live with only one father or mother in tents.”

He explains: “There are many parties who came to the camp with the intention of supporting Elaf and Saba. But there are also many other children!”, talking about the tragic scenes of children in the same camp, and how they looked at what was presented to their companions without others while they watched. “It was hard,” he said.

“terrible numbers”

In its latest published data, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) states that more than 6.5 million children in Syria need help, which is the highest number recorded since the beginning of the crisis that has lasted for more than 11 years.

Earlier this year, the organization’s representative in Syria, Bo Victor Nylund, announced that nearly 5 million children had been born in the country since 2011 and that they had “known nothing but war and conflict” and were still living in fear in many parts of Syria. .from violence, mines and explosive remnants of war.

The crisis continues to leave “psychological scars” on Syrian children, and in 2021 a third of children in Syria showed signs of psychological distress, including anxiety, sadness, fatigue or recurrent sleep disturbances.

Moreover, 900 children in Syria lost their lives or were injured during 2021, according to the organization, bringing the total number of children killed and injured since the start of the war to around 13,000 children.

At the beginning of this year, Save the Children published a report in which it talks about the catastrophic conditions in which children live throughout Syria.

She said that after 11 years of conflict, children across Syria continue to live in catastrophic conditions and in unsanitary and unsafe camps, exposed to bombings and airstrikes, and facing hunger, disease and malnutrition.

Although the tragedy of the children in Syria is “one”, only far from the area of ​​influence, those who stay in the camps experience “dark” living conditions that are unimaginable anymore. Most of them live in that geographical area in the northwest of the country. Khayyam are on the one hand orphans, and on the other hand, exhausted parents.

In addition, many have taken paths older than their age imposed by the harshness of life, abandoning books and schools – which are non-existent – in favor of “day” work (on a daily basis) to help their families provide daily sustenance, such as bread, water and so on, in industrial workshops and garbage dumps, begging between lanes and streets.

In the language of numbers, Nassif Nassif, a trainer in the area of ​​child protection, talks about almost one million and 100 thousand children who are present in more than 1600 camps in the north of Syria.

He says: “It’s no secret to anyone that in the conditions of the camps, nothing related to the minimum of basic life is provided, apart from talking about luxury. Health and social services and education are one of the most important rights of citizens”. child.”

In the past year alone, several children, infants and newborns died as a result of the cold, due to the lack of heating materials and health and emergency services, while 15 children died due to extreme poverty.

Nassif explains to the “Al-Hurra” website: “Children, instead of being distracted by their basic rights to play and education, at an early age turned to work in the land and in industry with professionals. They took on the role of adults, and many of them are orphans.”

“Bad financial situation and poverty make children bear the worries of their families, although it should be aimed at their age, receiving the care and attention of society.”

Nassif points out that more than 200,000 children in the camps in the north of Syria are not educated, while there are more than 90 camps that do not have educational centers.

For his part, Ibrahim Sarmini, coordinator of the “Protection Program” in the humanitarian organization “Vijolica”, spoke about the endangered lives of hundreds of thousands of children in the north of Syria, especially those living in camps.

Sarmini told Al-Hurr: “They live in the wilderness and outdoors in tents. Any child can be exposed to danger, be it from wild animals, weather factors, bad people and so on.”

“The children in the camps were forcibly displaced with their families. They left their protected environment of their neighbors, peers and people in the environment where their parents used to live.”

Sarmini adds: “The risks that attack them are not necessarily physical, but there are psychological risks imposed by the forms of everyday life they live.”

“Often the father is under stress, and the mother is also under stress, because of the life situation they are going through socially and economically. This situation has a negative impact on the children,” says Sarmini.

“bleeding wound”

Most of the children in Syria, which has been ravaged by war for 11 years, work in difficult professions to support their families, giving up their educational dreams. According to a December UNICEF report, at least 2.4 million children cannot attend school in the country, making them to Child Labor for a “bloody wound”.

In northwestern Syria, Syrian children who grew up witnessing the attacks of the Syrian regime and its allies are engaged in various jobs, such as car maintenance, sewing and baking. Not only that, but the group recently started working as “efficient” olive harvesters, while others were used to work as beggars on the streets.

Child protection trainer Nassif Nassif cites statistics documenting 200,000 children out of school in northern Syria, while explaining that “a large number of children are either displaced in landfills, or working in landfills and industrial workshops.”

At the moment, “it cannot be said that the children in northern Syria are living the lives of children,” according to the expression of the trainer. “The largest group found themselves inside with the worries of adults. They do not know the meaning of the game. They live in areas full of dangers between mud, mountains and snow.”

Nassif believes that “the interventions of organizations are either insufficient or too late. Every year we suffer a disaster, especially when it comes to the misfortunes that affect children in winter. Every year the same thing happens again.”

While Ibrahim Sarmini, coordinator of the “Protection Program” in “Violet”, confirms that in the camps “there is no place for children to play correctly”, indicating that through the “protection programs” they try to bridge the gaps, through psychosocial support activities.

He explains: “We try to create different things for the child to acquire new skills. We recently organized the World Camp Championship in a mini version. The children practiced football. They gained theoretical and practical skills. This thing helps them to activate their physical and mental structure. ”

Despite the work of several organizations on psychological support activities and the like, Sarmini believes that “the need is very great for things imposed on the ground”, believing that “the best solution is for them to return to their first and basic environment. They must return to their country and into your neighborhood. Unfortunately, that thing doesn’t exist.” I get it right away.”

“The issue is too big to be handled by civil society organizations or ordinary individuals. The issue of children and displaced persons in northern Syria needs a national budget to work on repairing the large and existing gaps.”

“unknown future”

With the war in Syria approaching its 12th year, there is no sign of an imminent political solution that would bring the displaced, who are estimated to number in the millions, and especially children, from the long-standing tragedy, which ranks among the worst in the world. conditions of other war-affected countries.

According to a recent study by the “Syrian Civil Defense” organization, 68 percent of camps in northern Syria were exposed to floods and tents sank, and 61 percent of camps witnessed cracks and uprooting of tents as a result of strong winds and rains, in the recent period.

Ratios and statistics reveal “the real and painful reality that civilians live in displacement camps every winter.”

These camps make up a third of the population of northwestern Syria, and “the constant presence of refugees in them means a further deepening of the humanitarian gap, and the non-existence of their rights to a safe life and the future of their children in life, education and housing”, according to “Civil Protection”.

Nassif Nassif does not see a clear future for the children in northern Syria, who live the tragedy with their own eyes day by day, and says: “We see a new generation that is far from education. A large number of children drop out of school.”

“What is expected from a child who grows up in the shadow of carelessness, who is exposed to all kinds of injustices and insults, so that at the end of the day he gets the price of a bundle of bread and a kilogram of potatoes. ! A child who does not get an education. He lives in the midst of bad deeds. It teaches that life is a jungle!”

Nassif continues: “All these circumstances will affect the next generation socially, psychologically and economically. We are leading this generation into the unknown.”

For her part, UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado summed up the situation by saying last year: “Only children in Syria bear the brunt of the tragedy, although they have absolutely nothing to do with this conflict, but they bear the brunt of the conflict.” An entire generation now knows nothing but war, how can that be a good thing for anyone?”

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