Penny Sims/British Red Cross
Penny Sims/British Red CrossPenny Sims/BRCPenny Sims/BRC
Penny Sims/British Red Cross
Kettermaya settlement, Lebanon - 2 children
One of the most tragic aspects of the conflict is the effect it has had on young people. Children have had their lives irrevocably changed; they have suffered physical injuries, lost friends and family, and for many there will be lasting psychological effects. Even young children have found themselves taking on huge responsibilities after family members have died.
In an informal settlement in Kettermaya, Lebanon, there are many children who have escaped from Syria with relatives or neighbours. They have seen things that no child should see.
Hamid, aged 11, from Aleppo, said: “Before, in Syria, I had friends and I had a normal life and everything was going fine.
“When the conflict started, things could get wild and crazy in my neighbourhood and sometimes we had to stay home. Sometimes the only way to get around was to run, and you were scared you could die at any second. My mother was scared for me when I went out. Sometimes I would
go out to get food for the family. Mostly my uncles would go, but if they couldn’t I would take it on and do it. Where I was living, there was shooting not every day, but more like every other day, so we knew the right timing of when to go.
“Sometimes I could go to school, but not often. The last time was maybe a year ago, when I was ten. We would go sometimes, but sometimes it was too dangerous. Now I don’t want to go to school, I want to work to send money to help my grandmother. My grandmother is back in Syria and she is taking care of my cousins. They are my aunt’s children - she asked my grandmother to look after them because she couldn’t anymore. I make money working with my uncle, breaking rocks, cleaning people’s gardens. There is a nice Lebanese lady, she gives my family food and helps us out. If I tidy her garden she gives me a bit of money.
“Over there in Syria, three years ago when I was eight, life was different. Everything was there. You could go out with friends, go to the movies. But here you can’t do anything at all. My friends are gone. Some of them died. Some of them went to other countries. Some of them are still in Syria, but I don’t get any news about them.
“I miss my parents the most out of everything. In the future, I want to build a family of my own and be comfortable. And I want to be Syrian – I want to go home.”
Sefedine, aged eight, from Al Moadamiya, likes Tom and Jerry, and one of his favourite things was playing with his dad and his brothers. He has been at the informal camp in Lebanon for three months, after being brought there by his neighbours and his mother. The tragic commonality that binds them is that they all escaped a deadly attack by chance.
For Sefedine, his lucky escape doesn’t sound so lucky - he was shot in the leg. He now bears deep scars just under his left knee, reaching around his shin. When he was hit, his mother took him straight to the hospital. One hour later, a deadly chemical attack hit their neighbourhood and Sefedine’s family was killed. Only he and his mother survived.
His neighbour Abu woke suddenly that morning with a strong feeling that he should leave. “I was sleeping, I woke up and said, ‘Let’s go. Now. Let’s get up and go.’ My family kept asking me why, but I didn’t have a reason, I just had a strong feeling and made everyone leave.” Just
thirty minutes later a bomb hit their house, exactly in the place where they would have sat that day to have lunch. The family are still incredulous as to their survival. They showed me Abu’s mobile - the tiny screen was still damaged from the force of the bomb, even though they were away from the house. Though it is cracked and disintegrating, the phone still works.
When Abu and his family found out that Sefedine and his mother had also escaped the attack, the neighbours came together to find a way to leave and get to a safe haven. Having his neighbours with him has been a big help to Sefedine, who desperately misses his life before, especially his dad and brothers.
The families living in this informal settlement are from many different places across Syria, but together they have formed their own, new community. They are receiving support from the Lebanese Red Cross, who provide practical support including food, hygiene kits, blankets and heaters.