In 2011, people took to the streets calling for increased levels of democracy and freedom. These protests then turned violent and civil war followed. Children in Syria today need our protection more than ever. During these times of conflict, we are carefully monitoring the situation in order to ensure the safety of the children and families in our care.
The tense security situation affected all areas of life in 2011-2012
Qodsaya is a suburb of Syria’s capital of Damascus, which has a population of roughly 1.8 million and is located in the south of the country. Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising that started in March 2011, there have been almost daily reports of shootings, bombings, deaths and injuries. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency more than 1.2 million people had fled to the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq by April 2013.
The tense security situation has affected the lives of all Syrians since the conflict started. The economic conditions of the country have deteriorated. The price of goods, especially those that have to be imported, has risen sharply. This has made it increasingly difficult for people to afford food and other basic goods.
Efforts to support the entire community
The first SOS Children’s Village in Syria was opened in 1980 in Qodsaya near Damascus. Over the past three decades we have provided the local community and vulnerable children with vital support. The SOS Family Strengthening Programme has reached out to struggling families in the neighbourhood and provided health care, nutrition, clothing, medical care and education.
In times of peace, access to education is one of our priorities When families struggle to make ends meet, this often means that children are taken out of school, either because they need to contribute to the family income or because their parents cannot afford the costs of school uniforms, materials and books, or transportation to and from school. Without an education, however, children’s prospects for the future are very limited and their cognitive development is hindered. We assist children so that they can attend school, for example by providing stationery, private tuition where needed, and material support to the family.
Since 1996, the SOS Social Centre in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, has also provided basic foodstuffs to single mothers and their children and to struggling families. In addition, training courses are offered to women and young adults to help them take the first steps out of poverty and find a job to support themselves independently.
What we do in Qodsaya
Before the conflict started, children from the region who were no longer able to live with their parents, could find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families. In each family, the children lived with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. These families have stayed together during the civil war, moving to safer facilities when needed
When young people who grew up in one of the SOS families feel ready to move out of home in order to study, receive training or find work, the SOS Youth Programme continues to support them as they make the transition into independent adulthood. Before the hostilities, the young adults lived together in our houses for boys and for girls in Qodsaya and nearby Sahnaya, supervised and guided by a qualified SOS counsellor. We are working very hard to make sure that the young people stay safe, and they have also moved around in search of safety.
Since August 2012, we have also been providing emergency relief to the local population.