The psychological trauma inflicted when children lose their parents, see their homes destroyed, or experience torture, is not easily alleviated, particularly when they have to remain in the stressful and unfamiliar environment of a refugee camp. Save the Children's staff see the signs of this in places like Syria and Gaza, from night terrors and bed wetting to children who refuse to speak.
Remember the next time you walk past a person sitting in a shop doorway that he or she isn't sitting there in the wind and rain as a lifestyle choice. They are there because something went wrong in their life and they are struggling to deal with it. They are someone's son, daughter, mother, brother or father. They could be yours!
It is not our role to discuss how best to bring peace, but it is up to us to address the impact of the conflict on civilians and their humanitarian needs. The need to scale up assistance is great and urgent. Access will become increasingly difficult in some areas - already aid agencies have to negotiate to reach people in need on a daily basis. More supplies are desperately needed in order to support ever-growing numbers of displaced people. Iraqi Red Crescent and ICRC volunteers and staff must be able to deliver assistance safely. Let there be no doubt that the crisis in Iraq has developed into a humanitarian one - and that addressing it is what the term humanitarian means.
I know what it's like to lose your childhood to war. When I was five and conflict raged in Sudan, my family and I were amongst the lucky ones to leave for Egypt. Four years later we were granted asylum in the United Kingdom. Inspired by legendary South Sudanese basketball player Manute Bol, my siblings and I took up basketball which helped us fit in. Like Manute, I was lucky enough to turn the sport I loved into a career as a professional NBA player in the United States.
I first met Hala at a tented settlement in central Bekaa, East Lebanon. She had been here for a year, one in a million refugees who have fled Syria. They call her 'the orphan'; her tomboy walk and winter hat make her easy to spot. She speaks with a disturbing nonchalance; a hardness, common amongst many refugees I have met. Her hair is falling out.
I took part in a recent UN convoy that delivered much-needed relief supplies to a hard-to-reach area of rural Idleb, in Syria's north-west. An estimated 40,000 displaced people have taken shelter in Khan Shikhon town, in the southern part of the governorate, swelling the town's regular population of around 80,000. They have come mainly to escape fighting their home areas in rural parts of Idleb and Hama governorates... For many of these vulnerable children and families, the humanitarian situation in Khan Shikhon is grim.
Crises at the scale of what has unfolded in Syria and neighbouring countries inevitably upset all norms and test the capacity of all organisations to respond, national or international. There can be no humanitarian solutions for what is fundamentally a political crisis. Yet as we head towards the third anniversary of the uprising in Syria, the international community does need to be asking itself: are we doing enough to assist those affected, and how can we do this better?
According to the latest update from Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres, three hospitals in Syria's Damascus governorate that are supplied by Doctors Without Borders reported that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms such as convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress, in less than three hours on Wednesday.
I walked around to see how children in Homs are living. In a convent that works with children, situated at the end of a line of fully standing buildings and right before the destruction and rubble begins, I was amazed to find children reading books, listening to teachers, drawing pictures and playing games. The drawings on the walls spoke of smiling faces, waving hands, laughter and messages about the need to forgive. A total contrast to the rubble outside that represents so many battered lives.