The Time to Act is now
We come together as global leaders, opinion formers and philanthropists to provide a safe future for Syrian children and their homeland. In launching our Time to Act fundraising appeal, we join forces with the High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and his Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, to prevent the loss of an entire generation of innocents. If these children become lasting casualties of an appalling war, the region will lose crucial leaders and peace-builders.
The plight of the children
Syrian refugee children – of which more than 1.3 million (March 2014) are living in camps or overcrowded shelters in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq – have been wounded both physically and psychologically in the escalating conflict. They have been stripped of their right to a stable childhood. The majority cannot access formal education – more than half of all school-aged Syrian children in Jordan are not in school, and in Lebanon around 200,000 were still not enrolled at the end of 2013. Scared of the streets, the children stay at home; isolated, excluded and insecure.
What we will do
With your support, the children of Syria can build a better future for themselves, their families and their societies. The key is education. Our campaign will fund a holistic approach that promotes children’s access to education; above and beyond the undoubtedly necessary provision of facilities, materials and teachers. Together we will protect these children from violence, abuse and exploitation. We will provide psychosocial care and a nurturing environment to help heal the hidden wounds of a merciless war.
UNHCR has the experience of delivering a future to those in exile. It is uniquely positioned to ease and prevent the conditions that are stopping children accessing education.
The barriers to break through
In addition to formal, informal and remedial education, vocational training, and cultural activities, Time to Act will provide targeted support to break through the most persistent barriers.
Syrian children are struggling to forget the unspeakable horrors they have witnessed. Bombs and missiles have destroyed their homes, communities and schools; friends and family members have been killed and raped, sometimes before their eyes.
Time to Act. UNHCR will provide psychosocial support, such as individual and family counselling. Recreational activities and more specialized support will also be provided in collaboration with local partners at youth-friendly spaces, community centres, and UNHCR registration centres.
2. Deepening poverty and exploitation
Many parents feel they have to make the choice between basic needs and schooling, and increasingly decide to send their children to work to ease their financial stress. Children as young as seven work long hours for little pay, often in difficult and dangerous conditions. One in two refugee households surveyed relied to some extent on the income generated by a child.
Time to Act. UNHCR will give financial support to help the most vulnerable families meet their basic needs, such as rent or medical expenses. The back-to-school programme will also work with these families to enroll their children in school.
Malnutrition stalks Syrian refugee children, with serious, long-term consequences for their physical and mental development. Poor hygiene, unsafe drinking water, cold weather and a lack of immunization compound the situation and create a breeding ground for life-threatening diseases.
Children cannot attend school when they are this sick, and even those who can find it almost impossible to concentrate.
Time to Act. UNHCR’s “Fit-for-School” programme will enable refugee children to join a food voucher scheme, providing the wherewithal and dignity for families to purchase what they need. Time to Act will also help fund water safety and hygiene programmes, and make essential medicines available.
4. Too busy with war
The volatile environment in the border areas of Jordan and Lebanon can lead children, especially boys, to consider returning to Syria to join armed groups.
Time to Act. UNHCR will increase monitoring of the returns process and deliver a detailed information campaign for those at risk from recruitment, building
on a new initiative in Jordan. It will also provide opportunities for vocational training and further education – keeping adolescents busy with learning, not war.
5. Nowhere to call home
An increasing number of refugee babies are born without birth certificates. This puts them at direct risk of a future ghost-like, “stateless” existence, outside of official protection or support, and unable to register in education, get married or start a business.
Time to Act. We will build on the progress UNHCR and partners have made to ease the requirements for refugees to register births. It will also help fund awareness-raising programmes – working directly with families and through community-based organizations.
The Time to Act is now.
Every day that passes is a missed opportunity to create meaningful change. We invite you to join UNHCR on our crucial mission, and raise the level of resource, expertise and influence we can bring to bear together. We need you to help bring Syrian children back to school and to reach out to other concerned decision-makers and influencers that are able to contribute their efforts in averting the risk of a lost generation.
Work with us. For this is our moment, for our world and our children.
Donors who recognize that this is the Time to Act will be an integral part of the ongoing work, with unique information, updates and reporting on the impact of their contribution.
Images: ©UNHCR/S. Rich and ©UNHCR/Jared J. Kohler