One in a million: children pay a heavy price for the crisis in Syria

By Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, IFRC

As the door of the apartment opens, little Rita runs to greet us with a warm welcome, a wide smile lighting up her face.

Rita is Syrian and originally from Homs, where she used to live with her parents and her five brothers and sisters. She was forced to flee her home with her family after her father’s death a few months ago.

The journey they made would have been arduous for the fittest of adults, let alone for young children. They moved from Homs to Damascus, then to Dar’a to cross the border and they ended up in Zaatari Camp in Jordan for more than a week. There was no food on the road and nowhere to sleep, apart from in an empty market halfway through the journey. Rita didn’t complain despite the hardship.

“The journey was really difficult and long, especially for my two girls,” explains Rita’s mother. The two girls are the most vulnerable members of the family. Rita and her younger sister suffer mental health problems and epilepsy, which means they need constant care.

“They are supposed to be on treatment,” adds their mother, “but we can’t afford it here, it’s too expensive.”

Three days ago, Rita had a crisis and she was taken to a public hospital but, once again, because of their lack of resources, no one took care of them.

Rita is one in a million. One million children are suffering just like her as a result of the crisis in her country and the numbers are growing each day.

The most vulnerable, like children, are paying a very heavy price for a conflict they can’t even comprehend. They are losing their mothers, their fathers – and this suffering will be felt for generations.

Yesterday, Rita and her family were officially registered as refugees in Jordan, and two of Rita’s brothers were enrolled in a school for the first time in three years.

“All I want is for my children to be safe and for them to be able to access their treatment. When my children are happy, I am happy, ” says Rita’s mother, a sentiment understood by parents all over the world.