When learning about the Syrian conflict it is important to realize that there is a lot more to the Syrian crisis than arms and ammunition, opposition and supporters, or Assad and the Free Syrian Army. The severity of this conflict expands beyond these few descriptive words and beyond the regularly televised political reports. The current events taking place in Syria have stolen and crippled the lives of many civilians living within the country and in neighbouring refugee camps. With almost 100 000 casualties and millions of internally and externally displaced refugees, what started off as a peaceful revolution in Syria has turned into one of the world’s bloodiest conflicts and saddest tales.
Placing the political issues aside, reports regarding the humanitarian plight of Syrians have emphasized the lack of basic survival needs that Syrians are experiencing. Requests and appeals for food, shelter, clothes and water have been made for refugee camps and the barely reachable 10% of Syrians inside the country. However, humanitarian appeals should extend beyond these aspects.
It is not a matter of Food vs. Education vs. Trauma Healing.
Despite the fact that food, clothing, shelter and water are, without argument, absolute necessities, education and psychotherapy are crucial components to the healing process of Syrians caught in the midst of this crisis. It is also important to understand that children are bearing the brunt of the Syrian conflict. They have been put out of school, forced to flee their homes, lost loved ones and friends, witnessed horrific war scenes, and are now living with great levels trauma.
Therefore, it is not a matter of food vs. education vs. trauma healing, it is a matter of food AND education AND trauma healing. Clearly, funds are tight and various organizations are constantly sending out appeals for donations and funding. Thus, it is understandable that aspects such as education and trauma healing have taken a backseat in this issue. However, it is essential, for the success of the healing process, to establish some sort of educational and trauma healing programs to assist Syrians.
In the current state of events, education is crucial to help Syrian children understand what is happening to their country. Cutting off education takes away any sense of normalcy that these children have attempted to maintain. It deprives them from the sources of comfort that education systems can provide. Schools can greatly assist in helping children comprehend the horrific events they are witnessing and reliving on a daily basis. A lack of education at an early age can also hinder children’s job prospects in the future. Unfortunately,many schools that have, in the past, provided children with a way to fill their days and continue to be contributing members of society now stand abandoned, in ruins, or have become new homes for displaced internal refugees.
Why trauma healing?
NGOs, such as Save the Children, have expressed their concern regarding the horrific events these children have experienced. Many have lost their families, witnessed massacres, were tortured, or forced to abandon their home and friends. Children have been reported to be suffering from various traumas such as inability to speak and sleep, flashbacks of horrific events, phobias from the dark, nervous ticks etc. These traumatizing experiences have the ability to forever scar an entire generation. Such implications can deeply hinder the children’s ability to grow up to be healthy and functioning members of society.
It is important to keep in mind that these children are their country’s hope to a peaceful future. Once the conflict subdues and the country is in need of being rebuilt it’s these children that Syria will depend upon. Unfortunately, a neglected generation that lacks any level of education and mental support can produce a dysfunctional and permanently scarred adult workforce that will have to deal with the pressures of rebuilding a country from its ruins. Paying closer attention and speaking out about the importance of psychotherapy and education for Syrians still living in the country or in refugee camps can stop an entire generation of Syrian children from being lost to war. In an ideal world, aid should not only provide basic needs and necessities, it should also provide children with an opportunity to recover their childhood. Unfortunately, despite the presence of a few initiatives that address these problems, the lack of funding aimed at aiding the Syrian crisis is still presenting the biggest hurdle in the way of tackling these issues.
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Syrian Children at Al Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan