The number of Syrian child refugees has increased from 260,000 to more than 1.2 million.
In many cases, refugee children’s lives are almost unrecognizable from their lives in Syria. In a recent study with refugees in Turkey, researchers found that:
• Two-thirds of children interviewed had been in a terrifying situation where they felt they were in great danger.
• One-third had been hit, kicked, or shot at.
• Three-quarters had experienced the death of at least one loved one.
Many children also no longer have access to education and are forced by circumstances to work to help provide for their families.
“In Syria we played – here we don’t,” said children in a focus group in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
The children also shared that they used to go to parks, gardens, the zoo, the stadium, and play sports, but now they have only a small room or tent and nowhere to go. Children also described that violence is a part of daily life as refugees in Lebanon.
“We see it all the time—children have bruises on their faces, or their clothes are crumpled as if they have run away,” said a project worker in Beirut.
In partnership with Integral Alliance, Food for the Hungry (FH) is working with the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) Relief and Development department to provide food assistance for approximately 2,500 refugee families (15,000 individuals) living in Lebanon and education programs for children.
Several LSESD local church partners engage with children regularly by hosting child-centered activities such as dramas, arts and crafts and educational events. Additionally, LSESD has one major education project, a school for refugee children in Zahle in the Bekaa Valley, which is serving 184 children from kindergarten through grade six as well as two literacy classes for children who have been out of school.
As LSESD’s programs continue to grow, FH has increased its attention to facilitating and implementing child protection policies and training. FH has recommended that all LSESD staff and volunteers engage in training on:
• Understanding and recognizing abuse
• Implementing behavior guidelines or codes of conduct
• Developing reporting and referral systems to allow families receiving aid to communicate honestly with the partners about their concerns.
Child protection specifically focuses on preventing and responding to abuse against children during the course of aid distribution, child-focused activities, and everyday life.
Keeping children safe from this kind of harm is especially relevant in conflict and emergency situations, given that the evolving nature of armed conflict puts children at increased risk of danger.
“As more and more Syrian people seek refuge in Lebanon, focusing on child protection can help to prevent children from being separated from their families, recruited into armed forces, and being physically or sexually abused or exploited as aid is distributed to families,” says M’Clelland. “In many cases, child protection also encompasses children’s psychosocial wellbeing, seeking to strengthen their resilience and ability to cope with very difficult life circumstances.”
If you would like to be a part of keeping Syrian children protected, please join FH in our relief work in Lebanon. Together, we can help these children find safety and education to prepare them for their future.