Children Are The Biggest Victims of War

“Children are the biggest victims of 9 years of conflict” claim Syria Relief in new report.

The threat of an ‘Illiterate generation’ of Syrian Children in Idlib is rising and peaceful political settlement is becoming impossible, as schools are on front line and have been throughout the entirety of the 9-year-old Syrian conflict says Syria Relief. They claim that “Children have become the biggest victims of 9 years of conflict, due to decisions they are unable to make but suffer greatly from their consequences.”

Syria Relief are the largest non-governmental provider of education in Syria and have released a report today (Sunday March 15th) to mark the 9th anniversary of the Syrian conflict detailing the devastating impact the deliberate targeting of schools is having on Syrian children, the wider education system and the future economy.

In 9 Years Of Schools On The Front Line: The Impact of Airstrikes on Syria’s Schools, Syria Relief, the largest Syria-focused NGO in the UK and the, states that they believe illiteracy is on the rise in areas like Idlib, where schools are on the front line and are frequently targeted for deliberate attacks. This mean that many children do not attend school out of fear, or schools have to cease operation partially or altogether and NGOs and education providers are having to use resources to remedy symptoms of the conflict, as opposed to focusing solely on the provision of quality education.

Throughout Syria, 40% of schools have been damaged or destroyed. A quarter of the thousands of people reported to have been killed in the ongoing Idlib campaign have been children. Since the offensive in Idlib started on April 30th 2019, Syria Relief have seen 6 of the 164 schools they run in Syria deliberately targeted by air strikes.

The most recent attack on a Syria Relief school was in the Idlib town of Sarmin on January 1st, where 12 people were killed by an air strike, 5 of whom were children, the two youngest victims were just six years old.

As well as the increased threat of rising illiteracy in conflict areas, Syria Relief also state in the report that:

• A political settlement to peace will become impossible, as targeting schools will only embitter the population to the forces who continue to flout international law through the destruction of schools

• Girls and children with disabilities are put at a greater disadvantage, due to the tendency of regressive attitudes to prevail when children are out of education

• Teachers and children are attending school less, due to fear that the classroom is no longer safe due to the bombing campaign

• NGO resources are being spent on trying to address the huge need for psychosocial support for the thousands of children suffering from mental trauma that comes from growing up in a war zone, to tackle the increasing likelihood that children will fall out of school and struggle to learn at the same pace as other children, due to severe trauma

Syria Relief use the report document to highlight the devastation that constant attacks on education are having on Syrian children and the entire population of the country. Syria Relief are making the following calls:

• For all military actors in the conflict to stop targeting schools with air raids and to go to greater efforts to avoid bombing schools

• That external governments who ally themselves with the actors in the conflict to pressure the belligerents into avoiding the targeting of schools

• For all actors claiming to be legitimate governments of Syria, or parts of Syria, to pass legislation which brings them in line with the 2015 Safe Schools Declaration, as well as International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law

• For host countries to provide an education that will provide their Syrian refugee communities with an education which will allow them to gain skilled jobs and enter the workforce on their eventual return to Syria

• For more funding from both the international community and the general public for education projects within Syria, to combat the growing potential of a ‘lost generation’

Othman Moqbel, Syria Relief’s Chief Executive, says:

“We can reveal today, on the 9th anniversary of the Syrian conflict, that children have become the biggest victims of 9 years of conflict, due to decisions they are unable to make but suffer greatly from their consequences. Education facilities are no longer places where children can feel safe, they are places where they fear death. However, avoiding school also has tragic consequences for a child; if a child is out of education then their potential is under severe threat, too. Some parents in Syria are forced to choose between risking their child’s life by sending them to school or risking their future by not sending them. Destroying a school is in no one’s interest and we need to ensure it stops happening. Now.

“Today, in the UK, we deliberate if will keep our schools open due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In Syria, many schools have had to close, not because of infection, but because they have been deliberately targeted and their pupils and teachers have been murdered and maimed. It is the next generation who will lead them in peacetime – the future for Syria as a nation, a society and economy is only as bright as the future of its children. However, the bombs dropped on Syria may ignite fires, but it extinguishes hope.”