Syria’s Children: Not A First World Problem

You’ll find the term ‘First World Problem’ being used all over the web at the moment. It’s a wry description of those trivial issues that people like us, living in developed countries, face every day.

‘What TV programme to watch?’, ‘Who to invite to a birthday party?’, ‘What school to apply for?’ That kind of thing.

These are the sorts of things that people living in less developed countries don’t have to worry about. They are too busy worrying about staying fed, warm, safe and alive.

Photograph by Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

This is Manal, She is 1 year old. She is originally from Syria, but now lives in Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

Thousands of Syrian refugees like Manal and her family have been pouring into Jordan to escape the violence in Syria. They now live in tents in the desert of northern Jordan. Conditions are harsh and the camp authorities are underfunded and struggling to meet the basic needs of the overwhelming numbers of refugees arriving each day. Over 65% of the camp inhabitants are children.

These children aren’t worrying themselves about who they are going to sit next to at lunch time, or their next maths lesson. They are too busy trying to come to terms with the atrocities that many of them have witnessed.

Caught up in the crossfire of a civil war between the Government and rebels who seek to force President Bashar al-Assad to resign, these children have been the targets of brutal attacks, seen the deaths of parents, siblings and other children, and have witnessed and experienced torture. They come to the camp physically and psychologically traumatised  and Save The Children is trying to help them.

Save the Children has been refused permission to access Syria to help more children but is calling for the UN to step up its documentation of all violations of children’s rights in Syria, so that crimes against children are not committed with impunity.  The aid agency is also providing specialist help to children to recover from their experiences. Some have started self-harming as they struggle to come to terms with what they have been through, while others are suffering from nightmares, bedwetting, and depression.

Photo by Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

Save The Children have set up several Child Friendly spaces in the camp, where children can take part in art activities. These sessions are therapeutic as there is great benefit for these children to be allowed to relax and have fun for a short period of time.

Save The Children’s chief executive, Justin Forsyth  has just returned from Jordan where he met children who have suffered horrific experiences.

He said “No child should ever see the horrors being described on a daily basis to our staff on the ground – stories of torture, murder and terror.

“They need specialist emotional support to come to terms with these shocking experiences, and their stories need to be heard and documented so those responsible for these appalling crimes against children can be held to account.”

In this day and age it’s so easy to ignore stories like this one. After all it doesn’t affect us, does it? Nothing like this will ever happen to us, or our precious children, will it? It’s much easier to ignore the disturbing links and quickly click through to something more pleasant.

But Save The Children needs your help.  They have started an appeal for money to fund their work with Syrian refugee children: if you can, please donate here.

If you can’t afford to give money, you can give your signature. Save The Children have launched a campaign to ensure the crimes against Syria’s children are counted so please sign this petition to the UN Secretary-General.

And you can help further by sharing this post and video on social media.

This is not a trivial situation.

If you ignore what’s going on, who is going to help Syria’s children? Who is going to protect them and seek justice for all they have gone through?

Save The Children wants to try.

These children, and what has happened to them may not be a First World Problem, but we all have the potential to be part of a First World solution.

4 comments on “Syria’s Children: Not A First World Problem

  1. It isn’t a first world problem, not in the ironic Twitter sense but I did wince when I read about the children’s old lives. The ones they had before the massacre that included all the modern fun that my own children enjoy. The Syrian children used to hang out online, Facebook their friends and play football. They used to go to University and school. They don’t play anymore as 9 yr old Nur says, ‘because I am not young anymore’. Heartbreaking. I’ve blogged on this crisis also, to try and raise awareness and to send back the message to children like Nur that they do count and that we the world haven’t forgotten them. Vix x

    • I know, I saw your post and agree that it’s unbelievable that these children once had lives very like ours. We like to think it couldn’t happen to us don’t we, but who knows?
      We visited Jordan in Easter and met a few Syrians who had come across the border but it’s all escalated so much since then.
      I think living away from the country you were born in makes stories like this so poignant.

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