DUBAI // As the war in Syria moves into its seventh year, the children who survive the violence end up suffering severe psychological damage, long after physical scars have healed.
After completing stringent studies on their mental health, experts say these “invisible wounds” are taking a crippling toll on Syria’s children.
“The results are deeply troubling,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, chief executive of Save The Children International and former Danish prime minister. “Of the Syrian people we spoke to, almost 90 per cent said children suffered from sleepless nights and they are nervous. Almost half turn to drugs to cope with stress or have lost the ability to speak.”
The crisis has had a devastating impact on their education. “Almost everyone we spoke to in Syria mentioned the lack of education as one of the biggest blows of this war,” she added. “For families there, destroyed schools means destroyed futures.”
More than half of those affected by conflict are children but less than five per cent of funding is spent on protecting, healing or educating them. “This has to change,” Ms Schmidt said. “To protect them, we need more resources and expertise. These must always be ready to go as soon as we require them because time equals life. We need to act way before the conflict spirals out of control.”
She said more needed to be done to address the physical and emotional scars that remain after the conflict ends to help the children heal. “There is a new global commitment to support children’s mental health and wellbeing in emergencies,” she said. “Right now, an entire generation of children is at risk of serious long-term damage if they don’t get the proper support.
“Inaction has consequences. Violence is a vicious circle and to change it, we must change the prospects of those children today because they need all these tools to shape the future. That’s what’s meant by ‘the best that mankind has to offer’ and we owe it to them to deliver nothing less than that.”