The earthquakes that struck Syria almost three months ago have once again displaced thousands of families. This has now serious consequences for children: Violence is increasing, and their protection is at risk. The leading Swiss organisation for children’s aid Terre des hommes offers psychological first aid and provides families with hygiene products. The need for support remains enormous.
The precarious situation of numerous families in Syria was drastically worsened by the earthquakes earlier this year. Once again displaced from their homes, children are increasingly exposed to emotional and physical abuse in sometimes overcrowded collective shelters. Almost three months on, the need for psychosocial support remains huge - both for children and their parents.
Child protection at risk
"Children in Aleppo are afraid of loud noises and do not feel safe in the buildings, fearing that they might collapse," says Monika Kolomaznikova, country representative of Terre des hommes (Tdh) in Syria.
Parents of traumatised children in Syria mention excessive crying and bedwetting as common symptoms. The hygiene situation is also a challenge: Washing facilities in community shelters are lacking and due to poor lighting conditions and the overcrowded situation girls are afraid to use sanitary facilities. The earthquake causes stress and financial concern for parents, resulting in an increase in violence against children. Tdh is concerned about a possible rise in child marriages and child labour.
"Imagine you are a balloon"
Tdh is working with local partner organisations in Aleppo and Latakia to provide children and their families with hygiene kits and offer psychological first aid. In addition, the organisation has set up child-friendly spaces to help children gain a sense of security and accompany them to overcome the stress and trauma they are experiencing.
"It is about active listening and being there for the children so that they can tell us their needs," explains Monika Kolomaznikova.
Through drawings, children express what it feels like to be afraid and learn how to use different techniques to reduce stress. One of these is breathing: children pretend to be a balloon that gets bigger and bigger when they take a deep breath. This can help them to release inner tension.
Tdh is currently establishing a mobile child protection team to reach out to people living outside of the collective shelters.
Photo: ©Tdh/Antoine Makdis