Wednesday marked the sixth year of Syria's civil war. And while stories of the catastrophic human cost of this fighting do occasionally pierce the news cycle, they too often fade quickly into the background. So here are some simple but harrowing facts about what happened in Syria in 2016: At least 652 children were killed; 255 children who died were either in school or nearby; over 850 children were "recruited" as fighters, often being sent straight to the most dangerous front lines of battle; many children are dying for lack of standard medicine. In light of this suffering, UNICEF has produced a set of short videos featuring Syrian children sharing their wishes for their country's future.
Entitled "The Syria I Want," this video series lets child survivors of Syria's war put their hopes for a different future into their own words. These are simple dreams of conditions most people take for granted — the ability to go to school, to be with one's family, to play without fear, to live in peace. It's not so much to ask, but the world has yet been incapable of providing such basic things for millions of Syrian children.
From a moral perspective, it's crucial to remember that behind every number, every statistic, there is a human face. And that can be difficult to do, given the way numbers desensitize us to personal suffering. For example, knowing that 6 million Syrian children now depend upon humanitarian aid is easier to brush past or forget than the expressive face and earnest voice of a child like Rami or Sasha.
Of course, numbers don't always tell a heartbreaking story. UNICEF has been working in Syria since 1970, and as such, they've managed to provide crucial help for millions of Syrian children throughout this brutal conflict. Over 3.6 million kids were provided with some kind of education support in the year 2016 alone. More than 21 million children were also given the polio vaccination throughout Syria and surrounding areas, a staggering humanitarian achievement. Importantly, psychosocial support was also given to over 1 million Syrians, which can be an often overlooked, but no less indispensable step in putting life back together after experiencing trauma.
Six decisive points that changed Syria's war https://t.co/5mCdt3rBlw— Valerie Gruhn (@vgruhn) March 17, 2017
Still, the pace of Syria's civil war is not abating. For children, 2016 was the deadliest year of the ongoing conflict. One way to help is simply to view and share "The Syria I Want" videos above. If you can, donating to UNICEF is another way to support kids through the assistance they provide. There are a number of other organizations working in Syria as well. And as always, you can call your representatives in Washington, D.C., and advocate for a more coherent and involved policy to bring an end already to this war.
The sooner that happens, the sooner children like Rami can see their wishes for a normal life become reality.