Save The Children in Syria: "Unfortunately we often see children dying; we rarely see them targeted"

The Save The Children CEO on why humanitarian aid must be allowed access to Syria

Share
Related Topics

I have found myself in some of the most desperately sad and frustrating situations in my line of work. None more so than earlier this week standing on the roof of a school on the Lebanon border with Syria watching the sickening sight of shells landing on Homs and Al Quasyr.

Seconds after the strike the smoke billowed and I was left fearing the worst: individuals killed or maimed; families torn apart and left homeless.

But it is not until you speak to the children that the true horror is brought home. Youngsters who have borne witness to atrocities no one should ever see tell of the suffering and brutal reality of the war in Syria.

Stories like that of 13 year-old Majed who talked about how a machine gun mounted on a tank shot 15 people on the street where he stood. He explained to me how he saw his best friend die on the way to a funeral after he was shot in the back, describing how the bullet came through his tummy and how the hole it left couldn’t be covered with both his hands.

Stories like that of the family of four children I sat with who said their parents had been kidnapped and were still missing. Or the little girl I met who had survived 60 days of bombing - during the fiercest onslaught, her uncle told me, a shell fell on the homes of their friends and neighbours every second.

I’m sorry to say these stories aren’t one-offs. Thousands of children coming across the border have similar tales of anguish, turmoil and hurt none of us can imagine. They speak of snipers on the roof tops of their homes, tanks rolling down streets where they once played and sleeping in the fields to avoid nightly shelling.

The children affected by the war are severely traumatised: they wet their beds, their sleep is broken by nightmares and some have started self-harming. They are desperate, frightened and all too often alone.

Save the Children is doing whatever it takes, both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, to give children and their families the basics they need to survive. In Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan we are helping to support thousands of families - providing food, clothing, shelter and education for children and families who are facing extremely difficult conditions. Our specialist teams are also helping children to overcome their traumatic experiences through emotional support and play therapy.

Along with our partners, we have already reached more than 600,000 people across the region, including 360,000 children. Our teams are working flat out but we cannot scale up our efforts to meet the growing need without additional funding.

The world can do more. We need more aid. We need humanitarian access – cross-border and cross-line. We need a political solution. As horrible as the chemical attacks were - and there can be no doubt they were a crime - the on-going war is killing many, many more.

As a humanitarian agency we don’t take sides. We want to work with all children that need help and we need to see that international law is upheld throughout Syria, on all sides.

Unfortunately, Save the Children often encounters situations where children are dying – through war or natural disaster. But it’s not often we see children targeted. Last week I asked the children I met why they think they’re being targeted. Their answer was truly terrifying: “Because we’re told we are the future.”

Standing on the roof of that school, a hundred metres from the border, it felt like Syria is losing a generation and what’s at stake now is the future of an entire country. We desperately need a way of protecting children.

Our message to the international community is simple: even if you can’t agree on anything else, surely you must agree that Save the Children and other humanitarian agencies must have total access to help those most in need.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
David Cameron delivers his speech on immigration at the JCB World Headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire  

Cameron's speech was an attempt to kill immigration as an election issue

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game