A generation of Syrian children are facing “catastrophic” psychological damage with one in four inside Syria at risk of developing a mental health disorder from witnessing traumatic events, a global children’s charity said Tuesday.
The psychological needs of children fleeing of war remain largely unmet due to lack of funding, spiraling numbers of refugees and overstretched resources in host countries, Save the Children said in a report.
“The repercussions for the future mental health of an entire generation could be catastrophic,” Ian Rodgers, country director for Save the Children in Lebanon, said in a statement.
“In addition to the obvious psychological damage caused by witnessing traumatic events and extreme violence, there are a myriad of secondary, underfunded and often overlooked, daily causes of psychological and social damage once a displaced child arrives in a new community.”
Some 10 percent of children participating in Save the Children programs in the Iraqi Kurdistan region had lost at least one parent, while in Lebanon a “considerable portion” have been out of school for at least three years, the charity said.
“For children ... being out of school for months or years, dealing with the acute tension and anxiety at home, as well as separation from friends and relatives, daily discrimination, child labor, early marriage, and living in insecure, poor parts of cities or towns, has a serious and profound impact on their mental and physical health,” Rodgers said.
Normal routines, such as being able to go to school and seeing their parents carrying out regular household duties, are crucial for children, Rodgers said.
Among teenagers acute stress is leading to suicidal thoughts and self-harm, with a few suicides documented in some locations, Save the Children said.
Other widely reported issues include speech disorders, problems with hearing or vision and bed wetting, the charity said.
“Leaving children untreated has a negative impact later on – they can become aggressive, depressed, and acquire phobias,” Reem Nasri, Save the Children psychologist said.
Syria’s war, which erupted in 2011, has killed some 250,000 people and created more than 4 million refugees.