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12 Years of War – Syria’s children of war talk about their childhood

A lifetime in war – Story of a 12-year-old child from Syria

On the day of Ahmed’s birth, everything came down at once for the family of the twelve-year-old Ahmed: joy and grief, life and death, beginning and end.

That morning, Ahmed’s father and two uncles were walking down the road that leads to the orchard, which was their source of livelihood, when a sudden shelling ended their lives. It was also the day Ahmed was born.

The war in Syria began in March 2011 and continues to claim countless lives ever since. For children who grow up in a world without peace, the impacts of the last twelve years are especially severe.  

Ahmed is one of these children. Like many others, he was robbed of his rights - including the right for parental care. Ahmed was born in the town of Homs on the same day his father was killed. He was raised by his uncle Abu Ziyad together with over fifteen other orphans, his brothers and cousins included.

The dream of peace

When shells and missiles targeted their family home, they fled and sought refuge in Jordan. The harsh living conditions over there, however, led them to return to the western countryside of Aleppo in 2014. Since 2017 the family lives in a refugee camp in Kalbit, near the border crossing of Bab Al-Hawa.

“I am 12 years old. I love my cousins because I grew up with them and they are like me. I love my school and I study in the third grade, even though I couldn’t go to school for two years because of the displacement. I love football”, says Ahmed.

“More than thirty people live in one house, which is designed to house only one family. I try my best to provide care for all family members despite many challenges”, says Abu Ziyad. “On the day of the earthquakes, I had twenty children under my responsibility. Within moments, I had to take them outside for fear that the roof of the house would fall on top of us. The noise of the earth and screams of children filled the surroundings, but thank God, our house wasn’t destroyed, and damage was limited to some small cracks”. Since the devastating earthquake on February 6, the children suffer from intense fear of the constant aftershocks, which manifests itself in their mental and physical health.

Ahmed’s respiratory illness has been aggravated by the additional stress and tension after the disaster. He is currently being treated at the Kalbit Primary Health Care Center, which is run by the Syrian relief organization Hand in Hand for Aid and Development (HIHFAD) with the support of Malteser International.

As for Ahmed's dream, he expresses it with a gentle smile on his face that reflects the innocence of a child tired of the war. "I hope to complete my studies and become an Arabic language teacher, and I dream that all Syrian children will live in peace, far away from war.”

"I lost everything I love"

The life of 14-year-old Maram from Atareb, west of Aleppo, has also been marked by war and destruction since the age of two. The worst calamity for her, however, was the devastating earthquake on February 6, which killed her parents and siblings. She was the only survivor in her family.

“I lost everything, my family, my everything. Everything I love”, says Maram. On the night the earthquake with a magnitude of 7,7 struck her home in northwest Syria, the young girl and her family tried to leave the building as quickly as possible. Maram was the first to reach the staircase – and then their house collapsed.

“We were trapped under the rubble. Among of all them, I was the first person the rescuers pulled out. 21 people lost their lives in that building, only nine people survived. I was one of the survivors. My whole family died but I was rescued and brought to the hospital.” Maram received treatment in a mobile clinic of the Independent Doctors Association (IDA), a Syrian aid organization that offers their medical services in Atarib.

”I returned to the building after I received first aid. They started pulling my family’s bodies, one by one. They were all dead.”

Regime missiles had previously damaged her building and cracked the walls – the earthquake destroyed it completely. The 14-year-old expresses her uncertainties about the future, “I grew up in the revolution and war time, I could not get a good education opportunity, I do not know what to do for my future.”

Malteser International and local partner organizations continue to provide emergency relief efforts to support those affected by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria. Fortunately, Ahmed and Maram were able to receive vital support. However, with countless others still struggling to cope with the aftermath of the disaster, more aid is urgently needed. Donations can make a real difference in helping these communities recover and rebuild their lives.


(March 2023)

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