Eight years ago - 15 March 2011 - Syria began its descent into conflict. For eight years, millions of children have been growing up in a war zone.

In some areas, Syrian children continue to pay the ultimate price of a conflict created by adults. They are still being killed and maimed either by active conflict, or by the explosive remnants of war in areas where the conflict has moved on. Many have seen their parents, siblings or school friends killed in front of their eyes.

Entire families have been forced to flee to escape violence – some multiple times. Nearly 2.8 million children have been displaced inside Syria, a further 2.5 million children live as refugees in neighbouring countries.

This war is something no child should live through - yet millions do. They have lost their childhoods, and, for so many, the promising futures that were rightfully theirs. 

In photos, this is what the Syrian civil war has looked like for the children growing up there.
© UNICEFPacific/2019/Chute.

January 2012, Syria: a boy receives first aid after being shot in the foot by a sniper.

© UNICEF/UN0269413/Graham AFP-Services

April 2012, Syria: Children and women walk through a ploughed field during an attempt to cross the border to take refuge in neighbouring Turkey. At this stage in the conflict, an estimated 1.5 million Syrian people were in need of humanitarian assistance. Today, that number is close to 12 million.

© UNICEF/Siagian AFP-Services

October 2015, Syria: A child’s teddy lies in the rubble of a destroyed building in East Ghouta, rural Damascus.

Kavita, 30, with her newborn baby at the Lady Harding Medical College in New Delhi. © UNICEF/UN0269340/Mukherjee AFP-Services

November, 2016, Syria: A destroyed classroom in rural Damascus, Syria. Violence has torn apart places that children thought were safe - places that should be safe: schools, hospitals, playgrounds, public parks and children’s own homes.

​Mother Samia and her newborn baby boy, Mohammed, at Al Shifaa hospital in Gaza City. © UNICEF/UN0269485/Albaba AFP-Services
January 2016, Syria: Children and their families wait for permission to leave the besieged town of Madaya in rural Damascus.
© UNICEF/UN0269428/Kambou AFP-Services
January 2016, Syria: A child is screened for malnutrition at a makeshift hospital in Madaya in rural Damascus. UNICEF had just taken part in joint aid convoy to the area, delivering life-saving supplies including blankets, diarrheal disease kits, midwifery kits, water purification tablets and medication for the treatment of severe and acute malnutrition.
© UNICEF/Barrena-Capilla AFP-Services

October 2015, Serbia: Shaimae, then 15, from Syria prepares her little brother Yusef to pass through a transit center in Sid, Serbia.

The exodus of over one million people from Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East to Europe was the largest movement of people since World War II. In Europe in 2015, one in every four asylum-seekers was a child.

“I am here as a Syrian refugee and going to Germany to put an end to the agony and the pain. Enough…enough pain, enough oppression. There is no more joy in our hearts… Everything is gone; our country is gone," said Shaimae.

"This is our shared pain, all together.
Us, the Syrian people.

We don’t want anything else from this life, but a roof over our heads and a mat to sit on." 
© UNICEF/UN0269361/Kohsar AFP-Services
September 2015: Life vests line the shore near the town of Mithymna, on the island of Lesbos. In the distance, a helicopter flies over the ocean.

By September, almost 400,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Greece by sea, since the beginning of 2015. Over 3,000 people are estimated to have died making the crossing in 2015.

For a moment, the image of Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach stopped the world.
© UNICEF/UN0269293/Berkovich AFP-Services

March 2012, Lebanon: Shadi* was injured during an unidentified explosion in Syria. 

*Name changed


© UNICEF/UN0269397/Ekpei AFP-Services

March 2014, Jordan: “An airplane dropped a barrel bomb on our school. I was hurt when they dropped another bomb. I got shrapnel fragments in my face and back,” said Safi, then nine-years-old.

"Some of my friends are frightened
of me because of the scar on my face.
They don’t want to play with me
© UNICEF/UN0269465/Savilov AFP-Services
March 2017, old city of Homs, Syria: The destroyed buildings of Syria cities have become an iconic of image of the conflict's devastation.
© UNICEF/Fontes AFP-Services

2012, Jordan: Children receive UNICEF school backpacks outside a newly-opened school in Za’atari refugee camp. The school was the first in the camp, with an initial capacity for 2,200 students in two shifts. Now, UNICEF supports over 18,000 children to go to school in Za’atari, including 700 children with disabilities.

© UNICEF/UN0269532/Jean AFP-Services
December, 2016: A drawing by an eleven-year-old boy, who was displaced with his family in 2012 from Damascus, Syria:
"“I drew an armed man shooting an innocent
man because I know a lot of people who
died since the beginning of the war."
March 2017, Syria: Saja lost her four best friends (Fatima, Zahr’a, Cedra and Wala’a) in a bomb attack in eastern Aleppo. She also lost her leg in the attack, but never her dream to be a gymnast. 
Saja dreams of one day taking part in the
Special Olympics. She practices doing
aerial flips every day in her tiny apartment. 
December 2013, Lebanon:  A Syrian child refugee, with feet only partially covered in adult sandals, stands in the snow in an informal tent settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  
December 2016, Syria: Hassan, then 12, holds up a picture of a Syrian refugee camp he saw on the news 
"“I was so sad when I saw these people
on TV, they don’t have anything."
Hassan's own family were displaced from the old city of Homs five years before this photo was taken.
March 2014, Jordan: Mohammed, then 12, slices traditional baked goods. “I used to study in Syria. I went to school. I used to be able to write. Here, I work from 11am until 11pm. My mother is ill, and so is my dad. I have five sisters, and I’m the only son. When I get back, I see no one here. They’re all asleep.”
"I must work.
If I didn’t work, who would help us?" 
May and June 2017, Syria:
Across Syria, 10,000 brave boys and girls
set out on a journey to sit their exams.
They walked for hours, crossing conflict
lines and mine fields to reach exam centres.

Many had to sneak past armed men and checkpoints. Others climbed up mountains to get an internet signal to download books to prepare for the exams. They put their lives at risk to pursue an education that is rightfully theirs.
December 2013, Iraq: Safaa, then 12-years-old, cries as she tells a UNICEF staff member about her family’s harrowing journey from their home in Syria’s north-eastern Hasakah Governorate to the camp for Syrian refugees west of Erbil, in Iraq:
"It’s sad but it’s not going to stop me."
August 2016, Jordan-Syria border: UNICEF and UN partners provide urgent food-relief items to 75,000 Syrians trapped at the Jordan border - unable to cross the border or turn back these women, men and children had to shelter in harsh desert conditions with temperatures of up to 50 degrees and sudden sand storms. They had limited food and barely enough water to survive. 

Unable to enter the refugee camp or cross the border, UNICEF and UN partners used a crane to transport urgent supplies to the people trapped there. 
January 2019, Jordan: 
"My biggest wish is to get better, so I can play football once again"
Ahmad was injured in Syria seven years ago when his house was shelled and the walls collapsed on him. UNICEF and partners are providing surgical care for Ahmad and children like him. After one week of therapy, he is already feeling hopeful. He excitedly talks to his father about the next steps – first the surgery and then, a new future.⠀
January 2019, Syria: A man carries a child through the desert. Escalating violence forced thousands of people to flee their homes for the safety of a displaced persons camp 300km away.

It is a three-day journey through the desert in freezing winter conditions, with little food or shelter along the way. UNICEF provided children and families with much-needed healthcare services as they arrived, including malnutrition screening, and referral to hospitals when needed.
March 2014, Jordan: Ahmad, then 15, leans his head against his hand: “My father was going to work when he was hit by shrapnel, just above his heart. Now he can’t work. I work on a building site. I’m the one who lugs rocks and cement. It’s very difficult."
"I never dreamt I would have such a job and this would be my fate."
October 2018, Jordan: “My parents tell me that Syria is beautiful. I was so little that I don’t remember."
"These are my house keys.
When we go back to Syria, I’m going to be the one who opens the door."

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