For the past nine years millions of children have been growing up in a war zone.
Sunday, March 15, will mark nine years since the war in Syria began.
As we enter the 10th year of conflict, children continue to pay the ultimate price of a war created by adults. In 2019 alone, more than 900 children were killed and hundreds maimed. These are only those we could verify. The true number is much higher.
Many have seen their parents, siblings or school friends killed in front of their eyes.
This war is something no child should live through - yet millions do. They have lost their childhoods, and for many, the promising futures that were rightfully theirs.
In 26 photos, this is what the crisis looks like for the children growing up in Syria.
Sometimes, pictures speak louder than words.
January 2012, Syria: a boy receives first aid after being shot in the foot by a sniper.
April 2012, Syria: Children and women walk through a ploughed field during an attempt to cross the border to take refuge in neighbouring Turkey.
By July 2012, an estimated 1.5 million people inside Syria were in need of humanitarian assistance. Today, that number is 11.7 million - almost half of which are children.
November 2016, Syria: A destroyed classroom in rural Damascus. 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.
March 2014, Turkey: “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."
September 2015, Greece: Life vests line the shore near the town of Mithymna, on the island of Lesbos.
Over 3,000 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died crossing the Mediterranean sea in 2015. For a moment, the image of Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach stopped the world.
October 2015, Serbia: More than one million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe in 2015 seeking safety, among them Shaimae, pictured here as she prepared her little brother Yusef to pass through a transit centre in Serbia.
"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.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."
December 2016, Syria: Hassan holds up a picture of a Syrian refugee camp he saw on the news. His own family was displaced from the old city of Homs five years before this photo was taken.
"I was so sad when I saw these people on TV, they don’t have anything."
December, 2016: A drawing by an 11-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."
August 2016, Syria-Jordan border: Over 75,000 Syrians were trapped at the Jordan border, unable to cross. Sheltering 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. With the border between the two countries closed, aid agencies were unable to cross to enter the camp. UNICEF and UN agencies used a crane to deliver urgent relief items to the men, women and children on the other side.
October 2015, Syria: A child’s teddy lies in the rubble of a destroyed building in East Ghouta, rural Damascus.
December 2016, Syria: "Syria is sad that her people are killing each other," said Haneen, then 11.
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,” Safaa said.
December 2013, Lebanon: A Syrian child, with feet only partially covered in adult sandals, stands in the snow in an informal tent settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
August 2016, Syria: A man and a boy collect unsafe drinking water from a pool next to the road in Aleppo, Syria. More than 100,000 children in eastern Aleppo were forced to resort to contaminated water after intense attacks damaged the water pumping station supplying parts of the city.
February 2019, Syria: UNICEF joined the largest aid convoy since the start of the conflict, delivering food, medicines, educational items and children’s recreational kits to 40,000 displaced people in Rukban, Syria.
Throughout the crisis, the UN has been one of the few agencies able to deliver life-saving supplies to remote displacement camps or besieged areas.
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 this would be my fate."
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. 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 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 2018, Jordan: Bodoor, then 17, attends a UNICEF-supported school in a refugee camp in Jordan.
"I didn’t choose to become a refugee. I didn’t choose to leave my country and live somewhere else. It wasn’t my choice. My dream is to be an astronomer. If I get the chance, I see myself working in one of two places: at NASA in America or a university in Britain studying astronomy. I want my dreams to be real."
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.
January 2019, Jordan: 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.⠀
"My biggest wish is to get better, so I can play football once again"
December, 2019, Syria. Children look through a box of UNICEF-supported winter supplies in rural Homs. As temperatures drop, children and families seeking shelter in rural Homs are especially vulnerable. Years of fighting have turned the zone into a haven for hundreds of families who have taken residence in unfinished buildings intended as housing for factory workers.
January, 2020, Syria: Children wearing items from a winter kit distributed by UNICEF, play in a camp in the Syrian Arab Republic. Displaced children and families seeking shelter in tented camps in the governorate of Raqqa face harsh winters. Forced to flee their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs, families are living in tents in the middle of the desert, with nothing to fend off the cold or the strong wind.
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's a three-day journey through the desert in freezing winter conditions, with little food or shelter along the way.
UNICEF is providing children and families with much-needed healthcare services as they arrive, including malnutrition screening and referral to hospitals when needed.
October 2018, Jordan:
"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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