During a visit to a small German town that housed a large proportion of Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers, I found myself asking a few individuals about their journey to Germany from Syria. Whilst every person had their unique story, there seemed to be one constant feature that stood out to me: the journey to Germany almost always started in Lebanon.
Conflict and displacement also carry with them the less visible scars of grief and trauma - feelings difficult to manage in adults, and even harder to manage in children. While it's unimaginable to ignore the effects of the war, can there really be reasons for optimism and hope? A group of Syrian artists believe so.
Places for children in schools are massively important, but the international community must work harder to turn their plans into action: accelerate the implementation of education and employment initiatives on the ground to make it possible for children to actually go to school. Then children can begin to live the childhood they deserve, and find some hope for their future.
Today, Monday 23rd May, the UK's Minister for International Development Justine Greening, Gordon Brown, and other influential figures will announce a new fund for education in emergencies at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. Save the Children is launching a new campaign at the summit to ensure that no refugee child, anywhere in the world, is out of school for more than a month.
Lebanon is in the middle of a crisis. The proximity of fighting and the influx of refugees is challenging. Nonetheless proper political processes should be in place and holding successful local elections would be an important step for the country. While support to Lebanon to manage the refugee crisis and the defence issues is vital the international community should also encourage the development of local democratic institutions.
Today, 15 March, marks five years since the absolutely brutal civil war erupted, leaving Syria a broken and divided country. The figures are shocking: Some 6.6 million people are internally displaced within Syria, and 4.6million have fled, mostly living in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan.
Five years, for any child, feels like a lifetime. For the millions of Syrian children whose lives have been turned upside down by the conflict, these last five years must have felt even longer than that. The conflict in Syria has now raged for half a decade, and in this time the millions of children affected have had to deal with more suffering and heartbreak than most of us will ever experience. The conflict has placed millions of children in terrible danger, and sadly a real end to the turmoil still seems a distant prospect. More than eight million Syrian children are now in urgent need of humanitarian aid in what is the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
It is very important for Syrian children to have an education. I don't see them as refugees. It is just a label that the society gave them. We are not looking into a dark future where people are divided into those who were refugees and those who were not. What they are now are children. Simply children. And all children have the right to learn and continue their education.
Airstrikes must be part of a comprehensive diplomatic, humanitarian and political peace strategy for the Middle East, in particular the rebuilding of the Syrian state. But there is no hope of negotiating with Isil. Daesh is a fascist organisation that must be defeated. The longer we leave it the harder it will be. I will be voting in favour of air strikes this evening.
Lebanon has seen its population increase by 25% with 1.2million Syrians fleeing over the boarder to safety. This autumn nearly 200,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon have gone back to school as a result of the shift system, many for the first time since the conflict began, and during my visit, I wanted to see the difference this has made to their lives.
Since 2011, when the Syrian crisis begun, gradually developing into a civil war (nurtured by internal as well as external forces) the number of dead is estimated around 220,000. It is important to clarify that there is no way to ascertain that number. The UN ceased publishing their own estimates by 2014 as there was no way to verify the actual numbers.