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As the Syria crisis enters its eighth year, Terre des Hommes supports children who have known nothing but conflict.

Ongoing violence in areas such as Ghouta makes a political solution to the crisis in Syria look increasingly unlikely. Most refugees currently live in neighbouring countries, where millions of children only know war and exile.

Destination Unknown member Terre des Hommes (TDH) has launched a new project to help 5,000 Syrian children and children from host communities, and will assist 41,000 people in total.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 5.5 million people – including nearly 3 million children – have fled Syria since the crisis began in spring 2011. The difficulties of those travelling through Greece and along the Balkans route captured the world’s attention. But what of the vast majority of child refugees living in the countries bordering Syria?

Lebanon and Jordan currently host more than 1.6 million refugees. The children living there are left vulnerable by limited access to health care, education and housing. In Lebanon, seven in ten Syrian refugees live below the poverty line. In Jordan, this figure rises to nine in ten for refugees living outside refugee camps.

With no end in sight to the conflict, the future of these children is increasingly bleak. Many are forced out of school due to overcrowding, discrimination and violence. Some are made to work by parents experiencing financial problems. A lack of educational opportunities has led to an increase in child marriage and domestic violence.

Strengthening the ability of refugee children to handle their situation

Given the ongoing emergency situation, TDH is focusing on developing long-lasting solutions in Lebanon and Jordan. It is building resilience by helping refugees to adapt to their surroundings and rebuild their lives, but also improve the capacities of local authorities, organisations and communities to take children’s needs and rights into consideration.

Building on existing operations in both countries, TDH is providing psychological and social support through non-formal education, recreational and sports activities. The project will also raise awareness among children and their families about how to prevent risks children may face, and strengthening the ability of local partners and communities to care for refugee children and their families.

Why new Global Compacts are so important for Syria’s children

The Destination Unknown campaign draws on the experience of its members’ work with children on the move to campaign for change in policy and legislation at local, national, regional and global levels. We are campaigning as part of the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts for new inter-governmental agreements – the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees.

These compacts must be grounded on the rights of children as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and include provisions and targets for guaranteeing continuous protection for children moving within and across borders.

The Destination Unknown campaign is lobbying for the human rights of refugee and migrant children to be upheld and respected in these compacts, including children’s access to adequate accommodation, education, health and other services. Strong and effective ways to guarantee children are integrated into communities are also needed, with assistance given as soon as they arrive to allow both refugees and their new communities to positively adapt to change.

The global compacts will not be legally binding, and the commitments made only carried out in phases – meaning they will bring more change to refugee children’s lives in the longer term. But if governments commit to what the Initiative is calling for, these compacts could lead to a significant improvement in protection and care, and ensure the rights of all refugee children are respected – something those forced to flee Syria desperately need.

Pic: A Terre des Hommes project providing psychosocial support to children in Lebanon.

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