Syria, the children’s war told through UNICEF’s photographs

Fotografie e filmati dell’Unicef raccontano il terribile impatto della guerra in Siria sui 3,7 milioni di bambini nati dall’inizio del conflitto.

Saja is twelve years old. Her eyes are full of hope. She smiles, despite all the things she went through. She lives in Aleppo, Syria. When she goes to school, she has to walk on the ruins of her city. She lost a leg and two friends of hers in a bombing. “I’m happy to walk all the way to school. I love school”.

Her story is similar to that of millions of Syrian children, forced to live in a war-torn country. 3.7 million were born since the conflict began on 15 March 2011: their first wailings were lowered by the rolling din of bombs and warplanes.

A report titled No Place for Children published by UNICEF on 14 March outlines the impact war has on children’s life, shaped by violence, fear and displacement. In total, UNICEF estimates that some 8.4 million children are now affected by the conflict, i.e. over 80% of minors living in Syria.


After the cease-fire, children came out of Aleppo’s basements

“Five years into the war, millions of children have grown up too fast and way ahead of their time,” said Peter Salama, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “As the war continues, children are fighting an adult war, they are continuing to drop out of school, and many are forced into labour, while girls are marrying early.”


Unicef bambini Siria
Qamar, 14-year old Syrian refugees, holds her one-year son ©Unicef/Lucy Lyon


The cease-fire started on 27 February – followed by peace talks between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and rebels – gives them hope. According to an AFP correspondent in Aleppo – the county’s second largest city –, many children attended to classes outside the basements they were hiding in to escape the bombs.


UNICEF reported 1,500 grave violations against children in 2015 alone. Over one third of minors who lost their lives were killed while at school. Therefore, attendance rate dropped dramatically, with over 2 million out-of-school children: among them, 700,000 fled to neighbouring countries.


Child soldiers in the Syrian civil war

According to UNICEF, a trend of particular concern is the increase in child recruitment by parties to the conflict: “More than half of the UNICEF-verified cases of children recruited in 2015 were under 15 years old – compared with less than 20 per cent in 2014”.

Children are now receiving military training and participating in combat. 14-year-old Huda was forced to shoot: “I was scared. The commander gave me a gun and said get ready for the battle.” She managed to run away, reaching a Jordan refugee camp. Like her, hundreds of thousands of Syrian children crossed the borders of their country. 15,000 of them were alone, without their parents.


Cover photo: ©Unicef/Amer Al Shami

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