Childhood in the Shadow of War: Voices of Young Syrians

Save the Children Sweden

Through the voices of children, parents and staff working in the region, this report by Save the Children presents a glimpse into the struggles faced by refugee and displaced children and families from Syria. The report is primarily based on children’s stories as told to Save the Children in urban areas in Lebanon and in camps and urban areas in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Drawings and other playful sessions were used with the children to help them tell stories of their everyday lives without the negative impact a deep interview might have.

The report highlights, among other issues, the high risk of family separation among displaced Syrian children. Separation from their parents or other caregivers has a profound effect on the safety, development and psychosocial well-being of these children. Child protection workers in the region describe how family separation is sometimes strategic and intentional, as families take calculated risks--due to security concerns and a lack of household resources--and decide to send their children away for their well-being, even while knowing the separation may lead to other risks. Save the Children staff in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq noted that initially most unaccompanied children were being sent from Syria by their parents for safety and security. This was particularly the case for boys 13 – 17 years of age because the risk of recruitment by armed groups in Syria is very high. However, more recently many of the families have also been pressed to come to Iraq because of the worsening situation in Syria, and Save the Children now reports seeing fewer cases of separated or unaccompanied children.