Syria, a Generation to be saved

by Christiana Ruggeri

ruggeriIt’s a fight against time. Not only to save their lives, but to preserve their infancy. The psychological balance, the studying, the playing.

Just like calm sleep and serenity: it will be more difficult to have these kids find them again.

It has been defined, not randomly, a canceled generation. They are the Syrian children: the young ones, the very young ones, still in the cradles. Born under the bombs.

And those in the schooling age. Who understand, even too much. It’s their hidden traumas and their evident fears to leave completely shaken the international community. Accused by many of hesitation and inaction, of feeble and uncertain answers. Starting from the UN, often criticized for its non-actions, together with the big ones of the Earth.

By contrast, against the political tactics and the economic interests that revolve around the planet Syria and its allies (Russia, China, Iran), to serve as a painful counterpoint is the despair of the civilians. Real and daily. Like the impotence of the aid workers, the few ones that achieve to insist on the Syrian ground. Like with hiccups and patchy, in a gymkhana of permissions, between the regime and the areas under the rebel control. Their cry for help, the figures they provide, the impressive images and stories do win the medias, but they haven’t found a concrete solution by the major powers yet.

And the young ones die of avoidable reasons. Every day.

For the Syrian kids, in different areas of the Country, the first enemy is hunger. Even before the bombs, these creatures, who have just faced life for the first time, fight to survive, while malnutrition undermines their bodies and drains their souls mercilessly, until killing them.

The images spread by Save the Children in the Glass Palace, on the sidelines of the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations, are shocking.

For these sons of Damascus, the war has lasted for the past three years: the President Bashar Al Assad is reducing to hunger his people and this is the first unquestionable fact. The use of chemical weapons is going to be definitively proven. The surgical and inhuman removal of children, gassed while they were in class, is to be added to a system of devastating rawness introduced by the regime, which is canceling a whole generation. Rebels are no less. Inebriated by the winds of freedom of the Arab Spring, as the time goes by they seem to have deviated their democratic goals towards terrorism. And it’s not to be excluded at all that they have used the sarin too. Just words, at the moment. The facts are, instead, that civilians are dying because of the blind stupidity of the contenders.

In the middle, as it always happens in wars, between the loyalists and the rebels, the innocents are squashed: children, women, elderly people. Their rights crash under the shots of the artillery. And diplomatic words stay in the wind.

The data on hunger in Syria are disturbing: in the sole area of Damascus, one child every 20 is malnourished. There are 4 million children that risk malnutrition. And they can’t wait anymore. It’s a vortex of despair that swallows, day by day, a whole generation of young sacrificed to a cause they can’t understand.

The World Food Program covers the needs of 3 million people in Syria and of 1,2 million refugees in the neighbouring Countries. Now the goal is to get also to the 4 million people displaced within the Country. In order to do this it’s required the cease – fire, at least temporarily: to reach those who are dying of starvation, before than of mortars.

Many villages have been besieged for months, others are isolated and unreachable, in addition to the prices of the consumer goods, increased in some cases by 100%.

In many areas, the population can’t get food and the aid workers are not allowed to go in to bring help, supplies, medicines. A stalemate that kills especially children and the weakest people.

The UN denounces how the continued conflict is gradually impoverishing the civilian population: it is already about 7 million the number of Syrians that live below the poverty line due to war.

Then there are just a bit older children, to whom normality has been ripped. Those who have grown up in the whistling of grenades. For them, on the 15th of Semptember the bell has rung. In the schools of Damascus, in the battered ones in Homs, in the many villages that are now only piles of rubble. Just a few have sitted at school. Because fear determines all the rest, and numbers leave us speechless.

It’s almost 2 million the number of children aged between 6 and 15 forced to leave the school: half of them are displaced within Syria, the other half has found a refuge in the neighbouring Contries.

In the big refugee camp in Za’atari, in Jordan, in the iraqui Kurdistan, in Lebanon. The UNHCR, the UN High Commissioner for the Refugees, is actually making miracles, but it can’t go on without private supports. And funds are never enough. And Syria, alas!, is not the only humanitarian emergency on this more and more battered planet of us.

Almost 4.000 schools have been destroyed in Syria: irreparably damaged by war, used to host military forces or, in the best case, to give a shelter to families. Actually, those schools are not used for teaching anymore: there are no children, no desks, no recreation. The possibility to study has crashed on the altar of the conflict.

This school – alarm has been received by the Syrian Ministery of Education which, thanks to the UNICEF, has started the campaign “Back to learning”: the goal is to bring back to school a million students. Since a long time UNICEF workers have been distributing, even home – delivering, school kits, rucksacks, pens, exercise books, cases, in a learning program that involves not only teachers but also parents.

The war of the young ones is like a parallel nightmare with high risks of permanent damages. And, sometimes, an exercise book and a pen, doing homework at home because of the fear of dying in class during the following air raid, can make the difference: the scholarization at home is another, extreme, trial to donate routine and normality to these children who are left with nothing but fear.

In the refugee camp, the job of psychologists and aid workers is precise. Exhausting, indefatigable. You can see it from the eyes of these kids. Lost, from the one hand, but positive, on the other. Because in the refugee camps they hope to go back home. The awaiting which, on the contrary, children in Syria don’t have. Absurdely, in the refugee camps, thanks to the international aids, children start to dream a tomorrow again, maybe minimum, but nevertheless concrete.

The answers to the most frequent question, “What is your dream?”, are disarming.

“Go back home”, “Meet my best friend again”, “Look for my grandfather”, or simply: “Go back to school”, “Play at my house”.

The psychological support consists more in gestures and colours than in words: it’s the drawings that reveal the hidden and difficult secrets of the youngest kids. The death of their parents or their friends, the bombs, the ruins, the executions. That is what the eyes of many escaped children have seen.

And so, on these sheets an indelible pain is impressed, on which the specialized personal can work. And, in the bast case, alleviate, diminish, heal.

This happens to the Syrian children, while the big ones of the world place the torpedo – boat destroyers in the Mediterranean sea, waiting for the final decisions; while in the Glass Palace they discuss about the Resolution for Syria called for by the UN General Secretary Ban ki Moon; while UN inspectors work on the proofs of the use of lethal gases; while you read this article and can choose to help these children, who are aged like our own sons.

The young refugees in the camps are drawing. But for the escaped, less lucky ones, as it happens in Lebanon, there’s something else. There is child labor, a silent and crawling slavery. And jail. Because many young Syrians are recruited as ambulant sellers by a sort of local mafia. Exploited, unprotected, catched because of hunger, fear, loneliness.

They act on the Lebanese shore. There are the international people too, who live there and are traditionally more sensible. Syrian families are hungry, and people buy more willingly unregular mercy from young undefended children. These young abusives who have escaped from bombs often find themselves hired to sell lighters, chinese objects, flowers. From this they get crumbs with which they can buy something to eat. They often sleep in the open air with their older brothers, since many of them have lost their parents and find themselves involved in other disgraces, furthermore in a foreign Country.

A kid has told how the Lebanese police stops them, takes their goods and takes them to the police station. Then someone not well identified arrives, pays the fee and the baby sellers go out again. To sell that nothing on the shore. And to earn a future which is calculated in hours of survival. With no dreams, no real perspectives. And then there are those boats which we Italians know very well. Recently, Syrian children and many adults are getting to know our shores as well. Desperate landings in Italy, after trips on foot that lasted months, in the neighbouring Countries, made of pain and privation to escape from the war. And to end up here: alive, with nothing in their hands and, often, having lost their families because of starvation during the flee.

His name was Muhammad Abyad, he was 28 years old, he was a doctor in Medici Senza Frontiere (MSF). He was Syrian, just like the man who killed him. His body has been discovered a few days ago. Because in Syria, in order to heal children and adults, there are many heroes withouth a name, like him: a Syrian who was murdered by Syrians. MSF équipes, composed by international and Syrian personal, work in 6 hospitals and in 4 sanitary centers in the Northern of Syria. They haven’t stopped helping, risking and even paying with their lives and their safety. In the period between June 2012 and July 2013, MSF équipes in Syria have provided more than 66.000 medical examinations, 3.400 surgical operations and attended 1.400 births. These kids are alive especially thanks to them.

Syrian children are not Damascus’s problem. An internal matter. A issue that doesn’t have to do with us.

They are a responsibility of the whole international community. That is the reason why the Syrian problem regards not only Governments, but the consciousness of all of us.

Despite the fact that the economical crisis is gripping our Country, the generosity of the Italian people doesn’t stop. That’s why, even a small sign of solidarity, added to many more, can make the difference. The social networks and the campaing for the Syrian children invite us to open our hearts and our wallets. By doing this, we can follow what is happening day by day. And, maybe, it makes us feel closer to those little hearts, become crazy for fear and impoverished for hunger.

On Twitter, the hastag #childrenofsyria updates the users on what the Unicef is doing also in our Country: every day the spokesman of Unicef Italia, Andrea Iacomini, updates on the events and the initiatives that concern children.

But dealing #childrenofsyria you will also be able to follow the reportages of the foreign broadcasts and the appeals to generosity. Data and numbers that remind us, unpitifully, how a week of missed coffee can save a Syrian child from hunger.

Because war, since ever, is not a children stuff. And those desperate sons, not so far away, need us. Now.

Traduzione a cura di Elena Cavucli

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