“I also remember the tank”
The Syrian people are mourning 10 years of war and millions of displaced people. The consequences of the conflict is disturbing and threaten their mental health. The Swiss child relief organisation Terre des hommes is supporting these people in six countries in the Middle East and Europe. The contexts are different, but the damage is profound everywhere.
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, more than 12 million people have been displaced. 5.6 million of them, half of them children, have fled Syria. Bakr was only 4 years old when he fled to Egypt with his family eight years ago: “I remember my street and a small market where we used to buy things. I also remember the tank that was near our house, we used to hide from it.”
The war and the flight have left serious after-effects. "My daughter was 2 years old when we found out that she could not speak. Today she is 5 and the problem is not solved. Her mental state is very bad. She cries, she doesn't eat and she doesn't play," testifies this mother who currently lives in a camp in Veria, Greece.
The psychological impact is also dramatic for adults. Meilaa Khateeb, a child protection specialist in Jordan, recalls a family she supported in Irbid: "The father had psychological problems and violent behaviour towards his wife. The mother was suffering from depression." The children, three girls aged 1 to 7, were left to their own devices. "The eldest did not attend school and had no choice but to work to survive. The girls wore light clothing to get through the winter. "
The explosion that ravaged Beirut on August 4, 2020, is an additional tragedy in their lives: "Many Syrian families lost one of their members who contributed to their main income," says Faten Moussa, a social worker based in Beirut. This is the case for the family of Youssef*, 12, who lost his older brother in the explosion; he was the family breadwinner since their father died in Syria. Today, Bassem*, 14, has taken over.
Terre des hommes is working with host communities against the negative impacts of this humanitarian crisis, such as poverty, violence, child exploitation, early marriage and school drop-outs. Activities in Romania, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq accompany the children according to their special needs.
*not their real names