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Syria Crisis 10 years: A silent war and endless shattered childhood and traumas


Syria Crisis 10 years: A silent war and endless shattered childhood and traumas

Syria Crisis 10 years: A silent war and endless shattered childhood and traumas
31 March 2021 Also available in:

In the single damp room where her family of six all sleep together – the air heavy with the smell of mold that stains the walls and furniture – 35-year-old Syrian refugee Hala describes the downward spiral their lives have taken since fleeing the conflict in their home country and coming to Lebanon 10 years ago.

“Our main objective was to get out of the war with our lives,” Hala said of their escape from their hometown of Hama in 2011. “[In Lebanon] there was a little bit of serenity […]. Our kids were still going to school, they were learning, they would become something in the future and make their mother and father proud.”

But as the crisis next door in Syria ground on year after year, their resources became increasingly stretched and the debts began to pile up. Hala’s three older children had to drop out of school, and her eldest son Amer, 16, started working to supplement her husband’s low-income daily labour.

Hala’s situation has sadly become the norm for families caught up in the world’s largest refugee crisis.

As the Syrian conflict enters its second decade, instead of getting easier, daily life for the 5.6 million refugees living in neighbouring countries in the region is tougher than ever.

Child quitted school to work to support family

Poverty and food insecurity are on the rise, school enrollment and access to health care are shrinking, and the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out much of the informal work that refugees rely on.

“One thing after another, everything that I have done […] in the last six to seven years is gone, nothing left,” Hala’s husband Yasser said. “The situation is very hard […]; it got inside of us, the children were affected and depressed.”

“I’m 16 years old – at this age I should be living the best days of my childhood,” their son Amer added. “Dropping out of school made me feel like I’m unwanted in this life. I used to work 12 hours a day, standing on my feet while I should be at school studying.”

Lebanon’s financial crisis has sent the currency plummeting and prices of everyday basics shooting up. Combined with the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this increased the share of Syrian refugees in the country living under the extreme poverty line to almost 90 per cent by the end of 2020.

Psychological crises arose in the protracted silent war

It’s like we’re living in a daily war.”

Both Amer and his father Yasser lost their jobs during the pandemic, leaving the family struggling to put food on the table and fearing eviction from the damp apartment that has left two of the children suffering from severe asthma.

The family’s mental health has also suffered as a result of the situation, with Hala often spending days unable to get out of bed, and both her and her son Amer experiencing suicidal thoughts.

It is part of a wider pattern of increasing mental health issues among Syrian refugees triggered by prolonged displacement, the pandemic and declining economic conditions. In late 2020, a call centre in Lebanon run by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reported an increase in calls from refugees thinking about suicide and self-harm.

Yasser summed up their situation, saying that despite escaping the conflict in Syria: “It’s like we’re living a daily war; a silent, domestic war.”

Since the start of the crisis, UNHCR teams have been working on the ground to support these families for 10 years. We have been providing safe shelter to families forced to flee and distributing core relief items, such as tents, blankets and kitchen sets. Meanwhile, we help displaced Syrians access health services and support the education of Syrian children.

And yet – 10 years on, the desperate situation of displaced Syrians is like a new emergency. UNHCR’s funding requirements for the Syria Emergency Situation in 2021 amount to US$1.996 billion and are only 11% funded as of 23 February 2021.

We need your support to address the increasing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees.


Reporting by Dalal Harb in Beirut

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.