Syria Conflict Leaves Invisible Scars on Children

Prolonged exposure to violence and stress, displacement, loss of friends and family members, and a severe deterioration in living conditions are leaving the children of Syria with lasting scars, UNICEF said today.

NEW YORK (September 10, 2013)Prolonged exposure to violence and stress, displacement, loss of friends and family members, and a severe deterioration in living conditions are leaving the children of Syria with lasting scars, UNICEF said today.

“Parents report that their children are experiencing frequent nightmares and exhibiting reckless and aggressive behaviors,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Bedwetting is common, and children have become more withdrawn and clingy. Their drawings are often violent and angry with images of bloodshed, explosions and destruction.”

UNICEF estimates that more than four million Syrian children are affected by the ongoing conflict.

“Children who have undergone profound stress can lose the ability to connect emotionally to others and to themselves,” says Jane MacPhail, a UNICEF child protection expert working with children in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. “Basic feelings can stop, and children find themselves unable to think ahead or remember recent events.”

Whether inside Syria or in the neighboring countries, in shelters for displaced persons, refugee camps or host communities, UNICEF has been working to help Syrian children regain a sense of security, to give them opportunities to express themselves, and to help them develop constructive ways to cope with the conflict.

UNICEF is working to set up child-friendly spaces where children can play and engage in recreational and sports activities. The organization is also training teachers and school counselors to provide support and refer children in need to more specialized care.

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 470,000 Syrian children have received emotional support in more than 220 child-friendly spaces, as well as in alternative learning environments like school clubs. The numbers include 250,000 children in Syria, 128,000 in Lebanon, 80,000 in Jordan, 5,500 in Iraq, and 5,000 in Turkey.

Inside Syria, UNICEF and partners have kept centers open and functional even in areas like Homs, Dera’a and Aleppo, where conflict has been most intense.

“Helping children deal with fears and insecurity is not a luxury,” Calivis said. “Parents who see their children reconnecting with their childhood have become our best advocates for this service.”

How to Help

For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF's relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:


Website: www.unicefusa.org/syria
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS

Text: SYRIA to 864233 to donate $10.
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038


As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect excess funds to children in greatest need.

About UNICEF

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org