24 May 2013

As Violence Continues in Syria, SOS Appeals for Children’s Safety

UPDATE: The SOS Children's Village in Aleppo was hit by a rocket. It struck the second floor of a family house, where the children's bedrooms are located, resulting in heavy structural damage. The Village had been evacuated previously so nobody was injured.

5/24/2013: SOS Children’s Villages has launched an urgent appeal to government and opposition forces in Syria and to neighboring countries: keep the SOS Village in Damascus safe. The Village, situated in western Damascus, has been in the line of fire several times since the outbreak of conflict more than two years ago.

Over one hundred children, twenty SOS Mothers, and thirty staff members live in the Village. Their lives, and the lives of the families in the surrounding community, are of the utmost importance to SOS. Now, SOS has asked the international community to respect the Village as a completely neutral, non-violent space.

In Berlin this week, Wilfried Vyslozil, the director the board for SOS Germany, released the following statement to all international parties involved in the Syrian conflict:

“SOS Children’s Villages has urged…government[s] to speak out for the safety of the Village to the Syrian government and the governments of neighboring states. The SOS Children’s Village in Damascus is continually caught in the line of fire between government and opposition forces…Violent confrontations occur in the immediate vicinity with increasing frequency.”

“The children have been heavily traumatized by the situation,” said Vyslozil.

Concern Mounts as Violence Becomes More Brutal

The appeal for the safety of the SOS Village in Damascus was broadened to include neighboring states following the Israeli airstrike on May 4. The airstrike, which was meant to deter the movement of arms to Hamas, caused damage to buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Village. Unfortunately, more airstrikes can be expected as there are several military outfits in the area.

SOS Children's Villages Syria
SOS Damascus has been evacuated several times due to violence and aerial combat.  Currently, the children and SOS Mothers of the SOS Children’s Village in Aleppo are residing at the Damascus Village, as the situation in Aleppo became too unstable, forcing the families to flee the city.

SOS staffers on the ground are in constant danger. Three Syrians who grew up in SOS Villages have been killed, along with their families; another has vanished without a trace. Almost all SOS staffers have lost relatives and loved ones. According to Vyslozil, “Snipers are shooting at everything that moves, kidnappings have become commonplace, and fighting is erupting constantly.”

Contingency Plans in Place to Keep SOS Children Safe

SOS Children’s Villages has an emergency plan that involves moving the children and Mothers to private apartments in Damascus is the area around the Village continues to deteriorate. While SOS does not want to have to uproot the children, leaving the country has been discussed as a possibility. SOS Children’s Villages Lebanon has already extended its support in the event that SOS is forced to move the Families.

Click here to read more about the effects of the war in Syria.