Addressing Child Separation in Syria

Safa, 6, was separated from her parents in Syria during the ongoing civil war. In 2021, she arrived at a camp in Northeast Syria (NES) without a family to call her own.

Children make up 62% of the population of the camps that Blumont manages – that’s more than 50,000 children. Due to ongoing conflict and instability in NES, some of those children have been separated from their parents or caregivers for myriad reasons. Their vulnerable status as unaccompanied children puts them in danger of having their basic rights violated and facing the risks of abuse, exploitation, or recruitment. Without a legal status or an identity, they often fall through the cracks.

The Shelter and Food Emergency Response (SAFER) project, implemented by Blumont and funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, employs a team to identify cases of child separation and refer the children to support services. Once under the protection of our service partners, these children can go to school, access healthcare, and even reunite with family members.

Safa, who was reunited with her uncle, stands in front of her home in a displacement camp in northeast Syria.

Access to basic rights and protection services

First, the SAFER team wanted to ensure Safa’s safety and legal status. In consultation with the International Rescue Committee and Norwegian Refugee Council (our protection and legal partners, respectively), our team carried out all the necessary verification and issuance of the required documents for Safa to access her rights.

Next, the team needed to formalize a safe living situation for Safa. This brought her uncle into the picture–legally. Although Safa’s uncle had already welcomed the girl into his home in the camp, he had not been able to officially take her in or even register her for educational or medical services. The SAFER team helped him through the steps of claiming Safa as part of his family.

He said, “Of course, it is my duty to take care of my niece, but I did not know how to do that in a way that guarantees her rights. Now, I will consider her as one of my daughters. I will not neglect her in any way, and I pray that the coming days will be happy days for her.”

A new, safer future for Safa

Now that she is formally living with her uncle’s family, Safa is brimming with hope and excitement because she can attend school. “Every morning, when I wake up and prepare myself to go to school, I am so happy,” she said. With help from our team, Safa was enrolled at the local school run by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

She is eagerly awaiting her uniform and other necessities provided by UNICEF, which should arrive soon. She told one of the Blumont team members, “I am very excited to receive books and pens in order to write my assignments. The teachers are very nice, and I have new friends and we go together to school.”

With the right protection measures in place, separated children living in displacement camps can be safe and have the chance to experience childhood.