In order to better understand the context for children inside Syria, who experience the daily devastations of the conflict, War Child Holland implemented a Child Rights Situation Analysis (CRSA) through trained researchers in Syria. Through participatory information gathering tools, children were encouraged to openly identify, discuss and analyse the issues most affecting them. Data was collected between August and October 2013 but the report found that the situation had remained largely the same as of January 2014. Protection was ranked first by 81% of children. Although education was ranked among the top five concerns by 95% of children, it was only ranked as the first priority by 12% of children. A notable difference in ranking comes from groups of children in particularly vulnerable communities – namely those experiencing enforced blockade of food and resources. In these areas, protection is still the top priority, followed by nutrition and/or healthcare in alternating order, and then education and play
Children interpret the right to protection by expressing their safety, security and their right to live. Threats of displacement or armed attack are most commonly identified as endangering their protection. Home is the location identified most often by children as relatively safe. Upon further discussion with children, it became clear that the notion of home is strongly linked with a child’s family and the space where family members are. For displaced children hosted in collective shelters or crowded apartments, this means that their notion of safety associated with home is confined to the room designated for their family to stay. Children place high priority and dependence on their family ties for support. They report fear of losing a parent or family member as a main concern (among 40% of child participants, family is listed among the main concerns). Despite children’s association of the home (and family) to safety, children also report protection threats and instability within the home environment.
In all communities assessed for this CRSA report, children cite rising stress levels among their parents and family members. Children attribute this change to insecurity, the rising price of food and other commodities, and unemployment, which is viewed as preventing parents from providing for their children. All children identify displacement as a key factor that increases their vulnerability to protection threats. Due to the higher likelihood of separation or loss of family members as well as other protection risks while fleeing, children are more likely to lose any perception of safety that may have previously been associated with the family and home. Displaced children regularly highlighted a lack of any privacy or daily routine and stability as contributing to a lack of security. Those who are able to find a space in an apartment are often living with five families or more together. In all reports from children living in shelters, the lack of privacy and safe access to bathrooms was emphasised and directly correlated with reports of sexual abuse and discomfort (most often among young girls). Children in all areas assessed, regardless of the level of active conflict, say that their parents are afraid of them going to school because of the risk of armed threats and attack. Children report that girls are more often encouraged to stay at home than boys, due to fear of kidnap, rape, or forced marriage. The reports include a range of recommendations both by the children who participated and also by War Child. Among others, all groups of children stated that support to parents should be provided, to improve their wellbeing and to help them know how to care more for their children. Lastly, they asked to prioritise the equality of rights and responsibilities between the community and the displaced.
“A child becomes a factor that pressures the parents and makes them feel incapable…because [the parents] cannot provide [children] with basic needs. This is increasing the gap between the child and his parents… parents are starting to use a practice of shutting them up or scolding them… so that the child does not remind them of their extreme incapacity to provide for them… This is destroying the family ties, which are being replaced by instability and fighting.” Researcher; Collective shelter in Rural Damascus