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07 May 2014

Syria children still face crisis

Syria children still face crisis

Alliance member and international children's charity Viva is training Christians in the Middle East in how to improve their response to the complex needs of children affected by the Syrian conflict.

The impact of the crisis on Syrian children continues to increase with 5.5 million children now affected, and more than 1,000 children crossing the border into Lebanon as refugees every single day.

Research and programme development officer for Viva Africa, Kezia M'Clelland, is working in partnership with Christian relief organisation Food for the Hungry, to join the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) in supporting Syrian families affected by the conflict. LSESD overseas education institutions and programmes working in Lebanon and regionally in the Middle East and North Africa.

She said: "It's been really heart-breaking to hear stories of children who are being physically harmed by the war, suffering abuse, involved in child labour, missing out on school and struggling to cope with the experiences they have been through."

Kezia has been researching the impact of Syrian conflict on children in Lebanon and Syria, examining the child protection systems in place, and proposing recommendations for improvement.

On a recent visit as part of a relief and development team to Tripoli in northern Lebanon, she ran an activity on the rights of the child with Syrian children residing in the area. One particular run-down building housed 25 children aged from five to 14 years of age, all from the same neighbourhood in Homs, many of them relatives.

Kezia produced a comprehensive report, which includes disturbing examples of life for children. Unaccompanied children as young as ten are being recruited by armed forces in Syria and are continuing to experience physical and sexual violence and living as refugees in Lebanon. Children in both Syria and Lebanon as young as six years old are involved in child labour and are not being educated.

One partner of LSESD in Syria said: "There are no longer any children in my country – even a four-year-old can tell you everything about the war."

Brian Wilkinson, Viva's head of network development, said: "Disasters usually affect children the most. Our partnership with Food for the Hungry exchanges Viva's considerable expertise in child protection and child participation with the opportunity for us to gain valuable experience in emergency situations."

Plans now are to develop child protection systems and to pave the way for future child-oriented initiatives such as child friendly spaces.

Vivais an international Christian children's charity that works with 35 partner networks in 21 countries, to inspire lasting change in children's lives through collective action.