Ten years of war in Syria has had a devastating impact on the Syrian people, particularly on young Syrians living inside and outside the country, according to a newly released survey by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),
According to the report, based on a survey of 1,400 Syrian nationals ages 18 to 25 in Syria, Lebanon and Germany, 50% of respondents lost friends or family members in the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions and destroyed infrastructure.
Released on Wednesday, the report also says nearly half of young Syrians lost their income because of the conflict and almost eight in 10 are struggling to afford food and other necessities.
“For the young Syrians who were surveyed, economic opportunity and a chance to have a future were at the top of the list,” said Ruth Hetherington, the ICRC’s Middle East spokesperson.
Ahmad, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon, told the ICRC that his situation worsens by the day.
“I had more money when I was 10 years old than now when I am 24,” said Ahmad, who hails from the central Syrian province of Homs. “I have nothing of my personal belongings I used to have at home. I used to have my own wardrobe, desk and computer.”
“What also came across very clearly was the mental toll that the conflict in the last 10 years has taken on young people,” Hetherington told VOA, adding that, “Syrians were clear about needing support for that.”
The report says young people in Syria have experienced sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, solitude, frustration and distress because of the conflict, with the past 12 months being particularly hard.
Rami Asfar, who left his hometown Hama to settle in Aleppo during the conflict, says the worst aspect of the war has been its psychological strain.
“I don’t have any physical injuries,” he said in the survey. “For me, the psychological and emotional damage was the hardest part. I have tried to get over it, but it left me with scars. This wound will live with me for a lifetime.”
According to the United Nations, about 5.6 million Syrians are registered as refugees outside the country. There are also 6.2 million people internally displaced within Syria.
The ICRC report comes days before the 10th anniversary of the start of a popular uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Experts say the international community cannot turn away from what has been unfolding in Syria.
“Humanitarian action is not a replacement for a political solution, which is obviously the only thing that will give Syrians ultimately what they think will get their lives back on track, start recovering and rebuilding,” Hetherington said.