Syrian children are facing ‘catastrophic’ psychological trauma

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

Picture: Save The Children (Childhood in the Shadow of War)

A generation of Syrian children are facing “catastrophic” psychological damage with one in four inside Syria at risk of developing a mental health disorder from witnessing traumatic events, a global children’s charity said today.

The psychological needs of children fleeing four-and-a-half years of war remain largely unmet due to lack of funding, spiralling numbers of refugees and over-stretched resources in host countries, Save the Children said in a report.

“The repercussions for the future mental health of an entire generation could be catastrophic,” Ian Rodgers, country director for Save the Children in Lebanon, said in a statement.

“In addition to the obvious psychological damage caused by witnessing traumatic events and extreme violence, there are a myriad of secondary, under-funded and often over-looked, daily causes of psychological and social damage once a displaced child arrives in a new community.”

Some 10% of children participating in Save the Children programmes in the Iraqi Kurdistan region had lost at least one parent, while in Lebanon a “considerable portion” have been out of school for at least three years, the charity said.

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“For children … being out of school for months or years, dealing with the acute tension and anxiety at home, as well as separation from friends and relatives, daily discrimination, child labour, early marriage, and living in insecure, poor parts of cities or towns, has a serious and profound impact on their mental and physical health,” Rodgers said.

Normal routines, such as being able to go to school and seeing their parents carrying out regular household duties, are crucial for children, Rodgers said.

Among teenagers acute stress is leading to suicidal thoughts and self-harm, with a few suicides documented in some locations, said Save the Children. Other widely reported issues include speech disorders, problems with hearing or vision, and bed wetting.

 “Leaving children untreated has a negative impact later on – they can become aggressive, depressed, and acquire phobias,” Reem Nasri, Save the Children psychologist said.

Syria’s war, which erupted in 2011, has killed some 250,000 people and created more than four million refugees.

Read the Save The Children report.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change.

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