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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Syria's Children: the "Dragon's teeth"

Syria's Children: the "Dragon's teeth". HT: Crof.

Via ReliefWeb, a report from World Vision: Children 'may never recover' from Syrian conflict. The full report and then a comment:
Children’s aid agency World Vision is urging world leaders not to forget the ongoing suffering of children caused by the Syrian conflict, as refugee numbers surpassed three million today in what the UN is calling “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era”. 
“More than half of these refugees are children,” said Wynn Flaten, World Vision’s Regional Response Manager for Syria. “Every day these numbers will keep rising, and children will continue to make their first tentative steps across borders into unknown lands, while children who’ve already been displaced for years struggle to keep safe, protected and educated. 
Children we meet in our child protection and remedial education programs in Lebanon and Jordan show amazing resilience. But when they can’t get into schools or can’t escape the financial necessity of child labour, what kind of future will they have?” 
Safe passage to neighbouring countries is not the end of the suffering for refugee children, the agency says. Life in desert camps or new communities would be frightening for any child, but these children have lived with the most horrific forms of conflict in Syria. They’ve endured violence; most have lost friends, neighbours or family members. In many cases they’ve been injured themselves. Crossing a border and starting anew is no easy task. 
“These children have come from one of the world’s most dangerous places. They need so much support to be able to recover from that, but the odds are against them. They need safe shelter, but that is only the beginning. They need special protection. They need to get into schools. Even when they can get in, often the classrooms are overflowing with extra students, or they are bullied to such an extent that they no longer even want to go. 
“Children may never recover from this. If the world continues to turn its back on Syria, it is the children who’ll continue to suffer the most. More needs to be done to peacefully stop this conflict, and more support needs to be given to host countries and humanitarian actors. We’re going to be dealing with this one for years to come, and the odds are against us.” 
Approximately 6.5 million children have now been affected by the Syrian conflict, and 1.5 million have become refugees. World Vision is working in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of people and appealing for more funds.
I have avoided covering Syria even though it is likely the greatest public-health disaster on the planet. Or precisely because it's a disaster beyond our capacity to understand.

In irony, we understand the characters better than they understand themselves. From the point of view of, say, 2044, our present responses to Syria will look grotesquely inadequate, and our children and grandchildren will cast a very ironic gaze on us. "Well, they also did believe in climate change, poor dears. Thought they were the masters of the universe, when they were just digging their own graves and leaving us with this mess."
Syria will reverberate through this century the way World War I reverberated through the last. 

The children who survive the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey will grow up as rootless as those in Dadaab, Kenya, with a current population of 338,000. 
It is hard to imagine a world in which millions of traumatized, malnourished and ill-educated young people can find a constructive place after all they have been through. But it is all too easy to imagine a world in which, as in the old Greek myth, they are dragons' teeth sowed in a field out of which armed soldiers will spring.
The generation growing up in those camps will have no interest in our world, except insofar as it has excluded them. And when we have finished digging our own graves, they will be the ones to bulldoze us into them.

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