After 7 years of conflict, there appears to be an imperfect peace in Syria at the moment. Over 500,000 have perished, 2 million injured, 11 million internally displaced and millions of children are missing their education in this most dreadful conflict. Forget the chemical weapons, which after the 100-year taboo of use since the First World War are now commonplace; forget the barrel bombs and the industrial scale torture; for those of us involved from a humanitarian aspect in this conflict, it is the complete disregard for the safety of children which is most shocking. They are the future of Syria and surely now we must help them?
The buffer zone plan brokered by Turkey & Russia for the final rebel stronghold Idlib province came into force on Monday. This seems to be the best chance to save 3 million trapped in Idlib however unpalatable the compromise, but the UK, in particular, has made it absolutely clear that it will not get involved less for humanitarian support for refugees, and once the conflict is over. Leaving those left in Idlib to their fate yet again.
I have been involved in our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, though a long way from perfect, they did prevent the wholesale massacre and maiming of children. Our legacy for the future of non-intervention in Syria is horrible. Up to 75% of children in rebel areas and those taken back by the Regime have PTSD and in them, 50% are incontinent. Thousands of children have lost limbs and many double amputations; thousands more severely disabled through the indiscriminate bombing. Millions of children are not being educated and have only known war. The UK’s main holiday destinations in Greece and Turkey are within 30 mins flight of IDLIB, I bet few know this.
At Syria Relief (UK charity) and UOSSM (Syrian medical charity) we are trying to make a difference where western governments have failed, and are planning to use the ‘spirit’ of INVICTUS (games), Prince Harry’s imitative to rehabilitate injured soldiers, to get the kids back on the road who have suffered in a similar way to our wounded warriors.
We fit over 100 limbs to children every month but have a 9-month backlog. These children, some as young as 3 years old, will need new limbs at least every 12 months as they grow up. The plan is to buy 2x 3D printers to make the limbs and turn a 7-day process to a 3 hour one – we are planning to raise over £500K by Christmas and philanthropist, Rory McCarthey has given us a $500K villa in St Lucia to raffle in the ‘Mail on Sunday’ in the run up to Christmas.
The INVICTUS Games also starts tomorrow and I will be getting inspiration from them to take back to the children of Syria. I’m hoping in due course to take injured veterans to the Syrian border to inspire the kids through sport and their shared experiences. DFID will not fund us directly as we operate in Syria, trying to save children! But will fund through third parties who take 25% in admin costs.
I hope all timely with Prince Harry’s Invictus Games about to start – many of the veterans I know and meet around the globe are appalled that ‘our’ Governments’, and too many ‘Good Men/Women’ have stood by and let the children of Syria bear the brunt of this most evil of conflicts; and none can deny its contents, as these atrocities are played out in real time on social media every day.
Children are the future of Syria and they are entirely innocent – in a small way we are trying give them hope and show that there are many who want to help them and we are not prepared to turn a ‘Nelsonian Eye’, as so many of our world leaders appear to.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE, Advisor to Syria Relief & UOSSM