Two children waiting along with their father to receive medical care at a field hospital in East Ghouta following an airstrike on their neighborhood. ©UNICEF/2015/Syria/Mohammad Badra
Damascus- 5, October- 2015- It was Jana's first day at school. "I walked her to class and stayed outside. I roamed for hours in the neighbourhood, fearing a mortar attack," said her mother Laila, recalling her experience. "I told myself; if something bad happens, I would reach her faster and hopefully be able to save her. I know I am overprotective but what can I do?"
Many parents in Syria worry about sending their children to school because of the dangers on the road to or at school itself. In 2014 alone, at least 60 schools were attacked, sometimes deliberately. In total, 5,000 schools cannot be used for this year. This is because they have been destroyed, damaged, converted to shelter the displaced families or used by the warring parties.
Laila takes care of Jana alone since her divorce. Her former husband has since fled to Europe, looking for better job opportunities.
"No matter what I hear about better opportunities in Europe. I refuse to make my daughter go through the horrific experience," said the mother. "My neighbour left a couple of months ago, I talk to her over Skype often. She told me that if she had the option she would have never taken the trip".
"I cried a lot when I saw the images of the child who drowned off the turkey coast or other photos of traumatized parents and children. I had nightmares of Jana being one of them" she said. "I know she misses her father. It was a tough decision but I think her safety comes first" Laila added.
As the first week of school passed, Laila no longer roams around the school but she still walks her daughter Jana there every morning and picks her up by noon. "I want to become a bus driver," Jana said. "And take children to school every morning. Or maybe an engineer like my father," she added.
"Health care is my main concern, you cannot find quality services anymore in the country. In the neighbouring countries it is too expensive for Syrians. I fear having a child with a disease or disability" says Jihad [i] a newlywed doctor practising working in a public hospital in Damascus.
Jihad plans to travel to Germany with his wife who is an English teacher early next year as soon as he finishes his training programme. "Until then if the situation improves, which I think is unlikely, I am happy to stay and help my people". Two years ago, when Jihad decided to specialize in plastic surgery, he thoughts of the tens of thousands of wounded Syrian children.
"I wish I can stay here and help as many children to look as beautiful as they truly are" he explains.
It is estimated that 55,000 Syrian doctors have left the country since the start of the crisis. Only 43% of hospitals are fully functioning and the remaining capacity is overburdened in many areas by widespread population displacement.
As the crisis continues with no end in sight, many families continue to be exposed to violence, water and electricity shortages, and limited access to education, health and other basic services. Currently, there are eight million people in Syria who are displaced internally and might become refugees.
"There are millions like Laila who chose to stay instead of making the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. They dream of a better future for themselves and their children. They have not given up and we should not give up on them," says Singer, UNICEF representative in Syria.
[i] Name changed