SYRIAN REFUGEE UPDATE — December 11, 2013

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Mahmoud, 15, earns $60 a month from a Lebanese fish factory. It helps to pay the rent for the underground  storage room his family lives in. The family says they cannot afford the luxury of sending him to school. Photo Credit:  © UNHCR / S. Baldwin
Mahmoud, 15, earns $60 a month from a Lebanese fish factory. It helps to pay the rent for the underground
storage room his family lives in. His family says they cannot afford to send him to school. Photo Credit: © UNHCR / S. Baldwin

Every other Wednesday, I’ll share with you some of what we know about the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis. After a brief news update, I’d like to share information from a report recently released by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) detailing the hurtful effects the crisis has had on children. I’ll also direct you to a way to send a message to a Syrian child.

Inside Syria, kidnappings have been on the rise. Recent abductions have varied from high-profile Syriansforeign journalists, and nuns, to average Syrian civilians. Both President Bashar al-Assad’s government and Islamist rebels have been implicated in kidnappings.

Outside Syria, difficulties remain. With the help of various international partners, the UNHCR released a recent report titled, The Future of Syria – Refugee Children in CrisisThe study shows the overwhelming number of refugee children growing up as the primary breadwinner, as the head of household, or in fractured homes. After going through the trauma of war, these children are missing out on education, family, and their childhood. In the foreword to the study, Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres write that a “generation of innocents” are at risk of becoming casualties if the world does not act soon.

The study finds that 3,700 children have arrived alone in Jordan and Lebanon. In many of these cases, parents either sent their children ahead of them for safety, died, or are detained. Unaccompanied children have a particularly difficult time, as they often must provide for themselves and younger siblings. In one example, the parents of Abdel, 16, Reem, 15, and Khaled, 13, made the tough choice to send them alone to Jordan. Before they left, their mother made them a tent in which they still live today. Abdel picks fruit to help provide for his siblings and neighbors keep an eye on them. Now that they are registered as refugees, the UNHCR is able to provide them with further financial support and ensure that professionals check in on them regularly.

The study further found that 70,000 Syrian refugee children live without fathers, meaning that often the eldest children must be the breadwinners for their families. Children as young as seven work to support their families, and nearly one-in-two households rely partly or entirely on income from a child. Even in families with fathers, children are frequently relied upon for supplemental support. Ayman, 15, is the sole supporter of his eight-person household. Ayman’s father cannot find a job, so he offered to help out. He forgoes school to sell gum on the street, making $4 per day. Ayman says he would like to be a doctor one day, and hopes his father finds a job so he can continue his education.

Readers can help ease the isolation and fear that many children face. The UNHCR has a simple way for anyone to leave a message of support for a Syrian child. To write a message, click here. Beyond that, you can take action and urge your representative to support welcome for refugees at our Action Center.

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