The world was a very different place five years ago.

We had only just discovered the tablet and the iPhone 4 was the hottest smartphone on the market. We said farewell to Harry Potter and hello to the first episode of Game of Thrones. Julia Gillard was Prime Minister of Australia, and Instagram was only just getting started.

And more importantly, five years ago, Syria was bustling with vibrant communities, commerce and culture. But that all changed on 15 March, 2011, when Syria began its descent into the deadliest conflict of our time.

If five years has felt like a long time in the world of pop culture and politics, it’s literally been a lifetime for 3.7 million Syrian children who were born during the brutal conflict.

One in three of all Syrian children alive today have never known a world without war. Meet just a few.

Esraa, 4, and Waleed, 3, Aleppo

Esraa, 4, and her brother Waleed, 3, sit in rubble near a shelter for internally displaced persons in Aleppo. Children their age who have grown up with conflict will never know the Syria their parents remember. © UNICEF/UN013175/Al-Issa

Only four years old, Esraa already has a lot to worry about. “My only wish for this year is that my little brother stops getting sick,” says Esraa, sitting with her three year-old brother Waleed outside their shelter in Aleppo in the cold Syrian winter.

When Esraa’s family, like thousands of others, couldn't afford essentials for the harsh weather, supplies of winter clothes from UNICEF helped them stay warm.

© UNICEF/UN013175/Al-Issa
“This is the best day ever,” chants Esraa in her new warm clothes. “Now with this warm outfit, Waleed will not get sick again.”

Waleed stretches his new pair of gloves around his small fingers. “This is my first gift ever,” he says.

Hassan, 4, Jordan

Hassan, 4, in a refugee camp in Turkey. © UNICEF/MENA2015–00015/Yurtsever
Hassan, 4, is one of 2.4 million Syrian children forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Hassan was born unable to use his hands or legs, and children with disabilities like him are often overlooked in humanitarian emergencies. Without the right support, they can’t get around the camp, access education or even a toilet.

To help Hassan and kids like him, UNICEF set up a safe and inclusive environment for children in his refugee camp in Turkey. It’s called a Child Friendly Space and Hassan comes along twice a week to get involved. At first he was a bit shy and avoided other children but now he’s more comfortable and confident of himself.

Kharam, 4, Germany

Khalid Raslan comforts his crying son Karam, 4, in an emergency shelter in Berlin. © UNICEF/UN05633/Gilbertson VII Photo
Four year-old Karam’s family are refugees from Homs. In 2015, Karam, his parents, and twin siblings Jannat and Amr made the weeks-long journey from Turkey by land and sea to Germany.

“We don’t have a sense of home at the moment because we keep being moved from camp to camp,” says Karam’s mother, Amira. “Jannat’s always asking if she will be able to go home, play with her toys again, when she can go back to school. So, I tell her that everyone from school has travelled away, and we are travelling to find a new school.”

Over 870,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea in Europe in 2015; more than one in five were children. Alongside its partners, UNICEF is supporting child-friendly spaces, providing supplies, and helping governments strengthen child protection systems.

Stand by children in crisis

In its fifth year, the Syrian crisis is now the deadliest conflict of our time. Now, more than ever, it is a children’s crisis. UNICEF has been on the ground since the conflict began, providing services including food, water, clean toilets, medicine and vaccines, safe places, shelter, and schooling for millions of Syrian children.

With your support, we can continue this work for children in crisis and poverty in Syria and beyond. By signing up for a monthly gift as a UNICEF Global Parent, you'll be working towards giving children the future they deserve - no matter where they were born. Become a Global Parent today.