During the past six years, Imane has endured enough pain and loss to last a lifetime. And she’s only 15 years old.
She and her four siblings were forced to flee their home. They have been displaced numerous times. They were abandoned by their father after the birth of their youngest brother. Then their mother abandoned them. Contact with their extended family has been lost because they move around so frequently.
The five children have experienced all of this against the bloody backdrop of the Syrian War. Now in its sixth year, the protracted conflict has killed a quarter-million people and displaced another 11.4 million. The Syrian refugee population alone is bigger than the population of Los Angeles.
A bit of respite came for Imane and her four siblings near the end of 2015. After they were kicked out of a collective shelter for displaced persons, they found a home at the newly opened SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) Interim Care Center in Aleppo.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first walked into our center. It was like everything beautiful I imagined before the war about my life is about to come true,” said Imane. “The quality of care we get here is not like any other place, and I wish all children like me can have the chance to live with SOS until the war is over.”
Imane's two younger siblings at the Interim Care Center in Aleppo, Syria, which was evacuated in April because of increasing violence. The children were relocated to the ICCI in Damascus
The Interim Care Center (ICC) in Aleppo was the third opened by SOS. The first was opened near Damascus in 2014 to provide temporary care for unaccompanied children. Some of the children at the ICCI had become separated from their parents because of the war; others have parents who have been killed. Between the three ICCs, 388 children have been cared for, and 150 children have been reunified with their families.
However, the ICC in Aleppo was forced to close in April because of a new surge in violence in the city. For Imane and her four siblings, that meant yet another move. All 23 children at the ICC were relocated to the ICC in Damascus, where they live today.
“The children came in a very bad situation because for a lot of them, the ICC in Aleppo was like another home that they had lost,” said Alaa Assaf, the SOS psychosocial specialist at the ICC in Damascus. “We trained and prepared all the SOS Mothers in our centers and prepared everything for the children to feel most welcome.
A short video taken by our colleagues in Damascus in 2015 at one of the two Interim Care Centers in the city.
After a few months since the closing of the ICC and SOS Childcare Space in Aleppo, plans are now underway to reopen the spaces to provide temporary shelter to families fleeing their homes. The SOS Emergency Response Team is already providing water and bedding to displaced families; they plan to begin distributing food, blankets, hygiene kits, and clothing as soon as possible.
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Now in its its sixth year, the Syrian Civil War has left millions of children displaced from their homes, caught in the line of fire and trapped in poverty