We should believe that there is no such a thing as eternal happiness - or struggle. The things we tend to take for granted - nutritious food, laughing with friends and family, or the unconditional love of our parents, may be the sole wish in the prayers of Syrian children.
They do not ask for much. But one thing for sure, their dreams are to be return once again to their normal lives that were mercilessly taken from them. They have missed out on normality for almost six years, since the outbreak of bloody civil war in their beloved motherland.
This vicious war spares no one. It destroyed thousands of homes and neighborhoods, turned people into widowers and orphans, shattered hopes, and left civilians with no choice then to seek safe refuge in neighboring countries. In our opinion, children are the members of Syrian society who are the least deserving victims of all the unimaginable aftermaths from this devastating man-made disaster; a war whose finale remains unpredictable.
No fewer than 6 million of Syria's young generation, the majority of whom are under 17 years of age, have become accustomed to seeing and being the target of abuse and violence. They are witnessing an incomparable nightmare we cannot even begin to imagine. It is a tragedy that is difficult to comprehend. Despite their young age, the great exposure to terror, torment, abduction and massacres has scarred their adolescent memories for life. In the country where life expectancy has fallen by 20 years, it is no exaggeration that Syria is the most unsafe country in which to live, especially for minors.
Living in a hostile environment that clouds the minds with sorrow, misery, and grief elevates the risk of mental health problems. Syrian children are not prepared to endure high levels of trauma, like children of their age in other parts of the world. Terribly frightened, many of these children reportedly suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional depression.
Being children, their biggest worry should be making friends and achieving good grades in school. Instead, growing up in a warzone means that they have to be continuously vigilant of life-threatening situations. They could be fired at by snipers who shoot anyone who stands in their way, or blown up by cold-blooded bombers who have taken the lives of their dearest families and friends in the name of a cause unknown to them.
Every day, they witness horrifying violence, exploitation, and abuse. They have been exposed to the cruelty of monsters who kidnap, wound, and kill the people dear to their hearts. The immense suffering arising from losing a family is immeasurable. The deaths of their loved-ones render them vulnerable to threats and danger. Moreover, their homes and schools have vanished, alongside the bright future their parents once promised.
At the same time, bombing and rocket attacks that occur without warning have torn-apart public buildings like school and hospitals, causing excessive damage and death. If they are not killed on the spot, it is very likely many victims will suffer physical injuries causing chronic disability. Educational disruptions exist because approximately 6000 schools in Syria are no longer safe to use.
We have repeatedly been presented with the news of children being treated for the wounds and burn injuries from explosions. The medical procedures required to save their lives by amputating limbs results in lifelong disability.
Accepting disability is hard, and it is even more difficult to bear when there is no family around to offer support. The distress is too overwhelming to be put on the shoulders of a child who is supposed to grow up having all the things needed to accomplish whatever dreams they set for themselves.
Meanwhile, a quarter of a million children have successfully fled to neighboring countries and live as refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; however, their relief may be short-lived. In those countries, 70% of Syrian child refugees do not attend school. One of the reasons is because the countries that open their borders to Syrian refugees are not prepared to enroll hundreds of thousands school-age children to their education facilities.
Even though in some situations access to education is available, the next major issue is the mental readiness of the children to go back to school. Hence, emotional distress and trauma are believed to play a significant part in demotivating them to focus on their schooling, risking them being unable to pick up their learning if their grief is not treated with adequate psychological support.
The situation experienced by Syrian children is deteriorating daily as the conflict escalates. Very little, if any, effort is being made to end to the deteriorating condition. Despite the fact that many reports have been released to acquaint people about the gravity and the urgency of the situation, it is unsure if anyone is paying attention.
It is undeniable that the Syrian children need real, serious, and genuine efforts to end this continuing disaster. It is hard to predict when it will end, but we all need to realise that if steps are not taken, each of us will eventually incur the responsibility.
This piece is co-authored with Dikanaya Tarahita. She pursued an M.Sc in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations at the University of Manchester.