A boy shows his pet birds which he says survived airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, near a children's park in Damascus. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh)
Many of Syria's self-inflicted wounds may take decades to heal. Wounds it's caused its youngest citizens may never heal at all.
The bombardments shatter communities and lives.
Two new reports focus on the devastating impact on Syrian children. The Oxford Research Group finds more than 11-thousand children have been killed. And a new United Nations report on Syrian refugee children found many not only grow up in fractured families, many live lonely, poorly paid lives as child labourers in unfamilair lands.
Today, we look into the impact of Syria's war on the children... starting with an 11 year old boy still in Syria. We won't name him out of concern for his safety, but he lives in the city of Hama, once at the heart of protests and crushed by government forces in 2011.
"Every day our schools were under bombardment and shelling. We go to school and we're terrified. We're in our classrooms in the middle of a lesson and then you see that we're being shelled. The schools here have been destroyed. And another school here has turned into a base for the Syrian army. Now there's only one school, and it's always under attack."
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And even at home, this boy wasn't safe. Less than a year ago, he and his family were visited by Syrian forces, and their lives were upended.
"The Syrian army ransacked my house. They didn't leave a thing for us. The soldiers took everything in the house. They took my 18-year-old brother, and my dad too. It's been ten months that they're in prison. We don't know a thing about them. The army just came and took them. They come after boys that are 15 - 18 years old. Sometimes I feel like they're going to get all of us."
Children run after a tank driven by fighters from the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo. There are concerns about the effects of the Syrian war on children with more than a million registered as refugees & 11,000 reportedly killed.(Reuters/Molhem Barakat)
Any semblance of a normal childhood has ended for our Syrian boy. Here's what he remembers about what were his old activities and hopes.
"I like playing soccer. But my friends are gone now, no-one's still left here. I want to become a doctor because of everything I've seen happening. And now we have no doctors left. It may be impossible for things to back to how they used to be. Because Syria's been destroyed."
We also spoke to an activist in Hama who has children of his own. We're also withholding his name to protect his safety. He has four children, and sent them and his wife to safety in Turkey after Hama was attacked.
"I wanted to keep them safe in Turkey while I stayed here to work. They've been there for two years. My house fell under attack twice while my kids were home and they lived in a constant state of terror. My wife and kids were here for the vicious attack on Hama by the Assad regime. So my kids suffered a lot of trauma. My kids were used to a life of comfort, so I sent them away. Because I could. Others haven't been able to."
More than 1 million Syrian children have fled Syria and live as refugees in neighbouring countries. As we mentioned, the United Nations Refugee Agency just released a report about some of the terrible challenges these children face.
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This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath, Pacinthe Mattar and Naheed Mustafa.
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