The conflict in Syria and exodus of Syrians to neighboring countries is now in its fourth year. The length of this conflict tragically reminds us of the lives lost, as well as Syrian refugee and host-community children and adolescents who lack education opportunities, face serious social tensions and suffer from unfulfilled potential and productivity. A recent study by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) showed that Syrian refugee children and adolescents are experiencing a variety of hardships including isolation and insecurity, psychological distress, extended disruptions of education and exploitative employment. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently presented a call to action to the global community stating that in order to avoid losing an entire generation of educated, engaged and productive Syrian and host-community children and adolescents, existing humanitarian efforts must be coupled with an increased focus on developing future-oriented strategies that prepare children and adolescents with the education and skills they need to help rebuild their lives and societies. UNICEF reports that although Syrian children demonstrate amazing resilience, another year of conflict and suffering is likely to keep them from recovering their stolen potential and rebuilding their futures.
Mercy Corps believes that in addition to children, adolescents aged 12-18 represent a critical cohort who warrants particular attention and investment. In order to move societies out of extreme poverty – an estimated 170,000 local people have been pushed into poverty in Lebanon as a result of the Syria conflict – we must marshal the full potential of societies, including adolescents and youth. Out of 1.1 million Syrian refugee children under age 18 living outside of Syria, nearly one in every three are between the ages of 12 and 18. Adolescents are largely missing out on psychosocial support, education and skills building programs as they are increasingly either forced to stay indoors for their safety — the case for many adolescent girls - or to work to help provide income for the family — the case for many adolescent boys. Adolescents will also be first among the generation of children affected by the Syrian conflict to be called upon to help mend torn social fabric and rebuild broken economies.
In an effort to fill gaps in action-oriented research on Syrian adolescents and their host-community peers, Mercy Corps conducted 16 focus group discussions in Jordan and Lebanon with over 150 adolescents in January and February 2014. Based on those discussions, this report details findings and presents recommendations that should guide investments in future-oriented strategies to facilitate and improve adolescent well-being and critical development skills for adolescents.