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'How can a mother bear this for her children?’:  Catholic group highlights plight of Syria's children 13 years after outbreak of war

by Donna Birrell

The plight of children caught up in Syria’s civil war is being highlighted by the Catholic charity CAFOD.

Friday marked thirteen years since the country’s President Bashar al-Assad brutally quashed an uprising on 15th March 2011, triggering a civil war. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, has said more than 164,000 civilians, including more than 15,000 women and 25,000 children, have been killed. More than 350,000 soldiers are said to have lost their lives.

The war has ravaged Syria’s economy and infrastructure and the United Nations says 16.7 million people require some type of humanitarian assistance.

Hombeline Duliere, CAFOD's emergency programme manager for the Syria Crisis told Premier: “Although the war in Syria is not making the headlines anymore, it has not ended. The Syrian people have suffered so much since the beginning of the conflict, not only conflict but an economic crisis, earthquakes, recurring disease outbreaks, but also every winter, they have to face freezing temperatures, storms, floods, and all of this with funding available to support them, decreasing. It's extremely difficult. And that means that Syrian children under 13 years old have never known peace in their home country.

“So many children are not going to school because the schools have been damaged or destroyed because of the conflict or the earthquake, because of the costs of transportation, because of the cost of materials, but also because they have to support their families who are living in a very difficult situation.”

More than 7 million people are internally displaced and many thousands are also living in Lebanon after fleeing their home because of the violence.

Lebanon is hosting around 1.5 million refugees from Syria at a time when the country is struggling with its own social and economic crisis.

Duliere said: “Almost the entire Syrian population in Lebanon lives on an income that does not cover their basic needs. Lots of Lebanese are also in need of humanitarian assistance and last year, 44 per cent of school age refugee children did not attend school.

“So children have experienced trauma because of war, because they had to flee their homes, but also because they have lost loved ones. And the issue is that in Syria and the neighbouring countries, their needs keep increasing, but funding available to support them keeps decreasing. So that means that we need to do more, with less. This is extremely challenging for organisations like ours and our local partners.”

“Some children under 13, have never seen peace in their country. Some children were born in Lebanon, they've never seen their country. I don't know how it is to be a mother and to raise the children in these circumstances. As a mother myself, I cannot I cannot imagine how it feels to have to go through this and to bear this for your family and your children.”

President Assad has regained territory lost early in the fighting with help from allies Iran and Russia, but large swathes of the north remain outside government control.



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