Syria has been experiencing war since March 2011 when the Syrian government began a crackdown on the rampant public demonstrations that were in support of a group of teenagers arrested for anti-government graffiti in the country. Since 2011, more than six million Syrians have fled their country to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, with many others left trapped inside the country after being driven from their homes. To date, more than twelve million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, with a majority of these refugees being women and children. More than a million children have been born in exile. In the refugee camps, these women and children live under harsh conditions, with scarce resources, overcrowding, and food scarcity being some of the major problems that they face. Arguably, refugees encounter adverse impact on their health and learning systems as they strive to flee their homes and live in refugee camps.
The Syrian crisis has been labeled the worst humanitarian crisis in this century by the United Nations (Basheti et al. 6). The effect of the Syrian war on refugees goes beyond physical and monetary since there have been health-related effects that have been reported by various experts and researchers. The researchers conducted a study to investigate the health-related effects of the Syrian war on refugees. The research involved psychosocial assessments conducted on refugees from Syria, residing in Amman, Jordan, to determine the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst them. PTSD is a common psychiatric condition amongst war victims and veterans. The study conducted concluded that the prevalence of PTSD amongst adult refugees is 35 percent. This is a high prevalence since the approximate prevalence of the condition in the population of most countries is below 10 percent (Basheti et al. 2019). War-related violence does not necessarily result in PTSD amongst victims. However, the prevalence of the condition increases in populations that are exposed to war. The research showed a high incidence of the condition in civilian Syrian refugees, with more males than females affected by the disorder. These findings show that many refugees suffer different forms of traumas, mostly from exposure to combat and violence, as well as witnessing people being harmed or killed. The gender difference in the results can be explained by the fact that more males than females are tortured and witness the execution and torture of civilians (Basheti et al. 2). These findings show the extent to which the war and the refugee crisis has affected the health of refugees, even if they survived the war and are living in countries where there is peace.
Yayan et al. conducted a study on Syrian refugee children to understand and evaluate the health-related effects of war on them. The study examined the levels of depression, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety among the children who live in various refugee camps. Over 1000 Syrian refugee children were involved in the study, with correlational and descriptive studies being utilized in the analysis of data. The researchers found that a majority of the children involved in the study had physical and psychosocial health problems, experiencing high levels of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. The research also revealed that anxiety and depression in the children had a statistically significant relation with post-traumatic stress. This means that the academic performance of these children is directly affected by the traumatic experiences that they undergo during the war and their escape from their country.
Ulum and Kara (413) discussed the various effects of the Syrian war on the academic progress and success of Syrian students. While war has adverse effects on the lives of everyone in society, children tend to suffer the most during a war. In the study, the researchers investigated the effect of war on the academic achievement of secondary and high school war victims. The researchers obtained the course grades of Syrian refugees in secondary and high school to identify trends and views on the effects of war, comparing student performance before and after the war (414). The academic performance of students is influenced by a wide range of factors, including age, gender, schooling, social-economic status, tuition trend, accommodation, and residential environment. The effects of the traumatic experiences that children undergo during the war on their academic success was investigated in this research. The children in refugee camps have experienced depression, fear, loss, insecurity, and violence. The depression that children undergo may not be apparent from observation or their behavior. However, a closer look at their academic performance can reveal the effect of the traumatic experiences on them. These experiences cause psychological damage to children, which results in children carrying the burden of their war-torn childhoods in their education and adult life (416). The review of course grades revealed that the academic performance of Syrian refugee students had decreased in courses such as mathematics, science, foreign languages, Arabic language, and health education (420). The only courses in which this trend was not observed were religious education, which the researchers attributed to the fact that people maintain their beliefs during difficult times, and physical education, which can be attributed to the easiness of the course. The research shows that the traumatic experiences that children undergo during war and crisis negatively affect their psychological health and disrupt the factors that influence their academic performance.
In a frontline documentary titled “Children of Syria” (Mettelsiefen), four children narrate their experience surviving in the war-torn city of Aleppo, Syria, and their escape to start a new life in Germany. The interviewer engages the children using questions meant to inquire about the experience of surviving war and the struggles involved in starting a new life in a different country. The children take turns to narrate the harsh realities of living in a war-torn city, explaining how they witnessed attacks and how their lives have changed as a result of war. They no longer attend school since most schools have been destroyed, the eldest one having to teach her siblings. The interview brings to light the numerous daily challenges that children and families in Syria have to undergo in their quest to survive the war and start new lives. The children share the hardships that they continue to experience, explaining the difficult living conditions. The responses that the children provide show their suffering and how the war destroyed their daily lives. The documentary reveals how the Syrian war has disrupted the lives of children, placing them in unimaginable situations where they have to struggle to meet basic needs and survive. Psychological torment and physical suffering can be seen from the physical expressions of the children interviewed and the living conditions evident from the video. The children are wearing dirty clothes, with rugged faces and facial expressions that insinuate suffering and discomfort. The children also appear to be in fear and confusion, judging from their restlessness.
The Syrian war and the refugee crisis that has resulted from the fleeing of Syrians into neighboring countries have negatively affected the refugees, both adults and children. Studies have shown that a huge number of refugees suffer from psychosocial problems including PTSD and depression, while the academic performance of children has deteriorated greatly. Also, the refugees continue living in difficult conditions, struggling to obtain resources and live comfortably. The Syrian crisis is, therefore, one of the worst humanitarian crises of this century, as proposed by the United Nations and many other humanitarian organizations.
Basheti, Iman A., et al. “The Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan: a cross-sectional pharmacist-led study assessing post-traumatic stress disorder.” Pharmacy Practice (Granada) 17.3 (2019).
Mettelsiefen, Marcel. “Children of Syria.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 19 Apr. 2016, www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/children-of-syria/transcript/.
Ulum, Ömer Gökhan, and Ömer Tugrul Kara. “The Effects of War on Syrian Refugees’ Academic Achievement.” Online Submission 48.2 (2016): 413-423.
Yayan, Emriye Hilal, et al. “Mental health problems of Syrian refugee children: Post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety.” Journal of pediatric nursing (2019).