The unknown future of Childhood in Deir Ezzor

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Enab Baladi Issue # 88 – Sun, Oct. 27, 2013

Ayham Al-Taha – Deir Ezzor

You cannot hear the singing of birds here in the city of Deir Ezzor since the ears can hear nothing but the sound of the continuous shelling on the city and the eyes can see nothing but the smoke of this raging war very early in the dawn time. The residents of the city who are still there have become subject to different types of sufferings among which is the most difficult one affecting children who are destined to be the victims of this war whether in their childhood or afterwards as the war is impacting on their unpredictable future.

A situation of distraction seems to be dominant on the eyes of children who are trying to simulate what is left from their childhood through playing with the remaining of the bombs, shells, and weapons. However, the war’s terms have really controlled what they utter and what they do as their behaviours have become more violent. Adding to this impact, the negligence of the health and educational aspects of life has become so clear in this city.

The activists in the city are trying hard to help children to avoid the painful reality that they are living day by day. Mahmoud the director of the educational office of the local council in the city says to Enab Baladi: “We are trying hard to activate schools more and to refresh both the educational and instructional processes, trying to handle and manage the psychological problems and issues as well as overcoming what has been missed out of the educational stages”.

Nevertheless, the efforts of Mahmoud and his colleagues are still minor within such a reality of continuous shelling which is affecting very badly the educational processes and limiting students from going to schools. Kassem, one of the teachers, says: “We are trying to insure the safety and security of the classrooms in the schools as well as providing a healthy environment for children as much as we can to help them restore what they missed out.  Although we are doing our best for the children, we are still living in harsh war conditions and dealing with destroyed infrastructure and organisations that also need to be rebuilt from the very beginning”.

The activists point out to the weakness in the available potentials that can deal with the educational level of children and raise it up. Housain Alhiji, the head of the local council in the detached areas of the city reported unresponsiveness from some of the granted sides with the local council. He said: “We have knocked all the doors starting from the international organisations reaching the National Coalition, but there was not any response to our demands. What we only got was more delays and procrastination, and the support that we got for the educational process was insufficient to meet even the basic learning needs of children”.  Despite that, he considered that: “the determination and intention are able to achieve what is impossible, and the Syrians have got exceptional abilities to stand again after all the crisis as they are the ones who produced the legend of phoenix to the world”.

In a similar context, students have started applying for their supplementary exams of both of the secondary and preparatory certificates. The supervisors of those exams thought that: “this is a good step forward, but it needed more efforts of support and encouragement”. However, the problem still remains in the recognition by the National Coalition of these certificates. Um Mohammad who is a mother of one of the students who is applying for the secondary certificate exam says: “we really need an international admission of these exams and of the certificates that are issued by the National Coalition, which is for us an essential task that the head of the National Coalition should not neglect”.

However, children are not only experiencing a low level of education, but also the health aspect of the children’s life has become the main problem which has exceeded the limit in DeirAlzoor.  Research has reported the return of the polio and many other diseases to the city and its surrounding countryside. The collapsed health sector and the absence of the necessary vaccines in these besieged areas have helped a lot in causing these diseases.

The International Health Organisation says that: there are at least twenty-two children who are suspected of having polio in Syria”. The health officials are making tremendous efforts to face this first outbreak of such a viral disease after fourteen years.

The spokesman of Oliver Rosenbauer Organisation asserted that “most children with acute flaccid paralysis in Deir Ezzor, east of Syria who are susceptible to many diseases including polio are children under the age of two years”. In addition to that, more than 100 thousand children under the age of five years are susceptible to polio in this province.

The polio virus attacks the nervous system and can cause incurable paralysis within few hours.  This virus was only endemic in three countries which are: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, but some cases may appear in other countries from time to time. Also there is no known effective treatment for this contagious disease, but it can be prevented through vaccination with three doses.  Adding to that, a wide variety of skin diseases and deformities that are caused by air pollution due to the extraction of oil and processing it in very primitive ways in the areas that are very close to the residential areas.

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