An Urgent Response to 353 Children, and Many More Awaits
Mahmoud, 10 years old, is the fourth child of a family that has been forced to flee repeatedly due to bombing and targeting of their home. Mahmoud suffers from a visual impairment since birth, which prevents him from going to school for several years. Families of northern Syria. His family had to choose between securing the basic needs of their children or get eyeglasses for Mahmoud, as is the case for most families in northern Syria.
Mobile case management teams were able to reach and respond to Mahmoud and other 193 children who have similar conditions and visual problems during the month of October.
“Often children who suffer from visual impairment, whether lack of vision acuity, or in need of surgeries, such as corneal transplantation, are subjected to bullying and social discrimination. These happen due to some cases where the child is unable to see the blackboard in the classroom, or the ability to play with children of the same age, and while playing games that need more visual focus, all lead to exclude the child from play. This may also lead to many negative psychological consequences, as well as effects on their integration in the society” Protection Officer Nour says.
Hurras Network believes in the need to prioritise support for children who are less flexible and who may require additional services, special mechanisms and close monitoring. Equality, understood by Hurras, is striving not to marginalizes children who need support of this kind.
In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic and the increasing protection risks facing children, our teams were able to provide urgent protection to 353 children during the month of October.
Zero Covid-19 cases within the Activities of Hurras
The spread of the Covid-19 epidemic within the regions of northern Syria is a new challenge to humanitarian work, and the deterioration of the health system and the collapse of the infrastructure, carries many other major challenges, especially for human workers, as they may be the cause of transmitting the virus. This condition puts them into difficult options whether to continue the urgent response to the groups affected by the virus or to stop responding to protect themselves from the infection.
Therefore, specialists in Hurras Network has worked on translating and providing special protective measures for field workers and develop these measures to suit the Syrian context in order not to be a cause of the spread of the Covid-19 virus, as well as to ensure that they could continue to respond to the most affected groups. You can see measures for field workers here. In addition to a special publication for our response to children with disabilities.
These procedures and the restructuring of the activities to suit the procedures helped to ensure that none of our cadres or beneficiaries were infected due to the activities during the months of September and October. So far, we would be the first organization that managed to continue the activities and the urgent response to people in needs, and not to record any cases of Covid-19.
“It is very difficult for the distribution and psychological support processes to turn into individual sessions for each family. This procedure would have multiplied the work tenfold, but over the time we were able to reach 11,500 children as part of the emergency response. Nothing is impossible” Says Diala, the responsible of emergency response.
Covid-19 Epidemic is Depriving Children of North Syria the Right of Free Education
About only 500 thousand out of one million of school age children are able to enroll in formal education due to several reasons such as the war, and the destruction of schools. The outbreak of covid-19 and the transition to distance education have also prevented around 44% of children to continue their education due to inability to provide the internet and the needed electronic devices. Currently, 20 thousand children out of 33 thousand got the chance to continue their education in schools supported by Hurras Network.
Education at the time of Covid-19 epidemic has turned into a non-free education in northwestern Syria. If you are lucky and have the ability to secure the Internet, this means that your children are able to continue their education, and vice versa.
As part of the urgent response to the less fortunate children, Internet cards were distributed with self-education and sterilizations bags to enable the children to continue their safe education, in addition to psychological support and awareness sessions were held.
Moreover, Hurras Network has contributed to installing internet to 15 schools to support teachers to upload the lessons online. The field survey showed that 50% of schools in northern Syria do not have internet access, which means that children enrolled within these schools do not have the ability to follow up on the distance education system.
We in Hurras Network, believe that every child has the right to free and safe education, and we must all work to ensure this is achieved.
Child’s Human Dignity or Documenting Relief Work, Which is More Important?
Recently, there were videos have spread over the media and contain violations of the child’s human dignity by filming them while receiving assistance by humanitarian workers.
To ensure that Hurras Network is not part of these violations, we have assigned the documentation task to only 35 people. They are the only ones who have the authority to photograph and document activities, whom also have been trained on the basics of protection and effective communication with the child, without causing any psychological or moral harm during the activities.
The training carries the spirit of the topic being discussed, which is the dignity of the child and our role as human workers in preserving it. I am optimistic that the training will positively reflect on the team’s work in documenting the activities in a way that reflects the effort exerted without accusing the child,” says Faisal, a protection coordinator in Idlib.
During the month of November, Hurras has reviewed and updated the child safeguarding policy and the code of conduct. 140 employees from various departments have participated in the review process, to come up with an important update, which is a code of conduct for suppliers and clients that we contract with to ensure that the concepts of the code of conduct are communicated in appropriate language and examples.
Since the beginning of 2020, all the employees within Hurras Network have undergone child safeguarding trainings, and currently the percentage of trainees has reached 100%.
You can see Hurras post in an article about Safe Photography with tinyhand
The only Special Education Center in Northwestern Syria
Abdel-Hay, the youngest child of his family, his mother has six children. She is from Jisr Al-Shughour area, who fled to Ma`rat Misrin due to the bombing. Since his birth, Abdel-Hay was sick as he was placed in an incubator and had a shortage of oxygen and a cerebral atrophy, and he remained bedridden for ten years. After the family moved to Maarat Misrin, Abdel-Hay joined the Special Education Center of Hurras, the only center in northern Syria that provides special education services.
Abdel-Hay’s mother says “I cannot do anything to improve his condition. They are the ones who can tell if Abdel-Hay’s condition will always remain like this or he could improve for the better. Now Abdel-Hay’s condition is getting better. He had a problem while speaking (stuttering), and now he can speak much better, and he started to eat his food alone. Abdel-Hay turned to a completely different child, and Hurras Education Center helped him and boosted his self-confidence.
Hurras Special Education Officer says “We follow a set of individual and organize methods that include a special education situation, special educational materials, special methods, and specific treatment procedures aimed at helping children with special needs to reach their potential to the fullest.
As for the mechanism followed, it is an individual educational plan for each child according to separate individual sessions. The plan includes daily life skills, social and academic skills, in addition to behaviors modification plans. The most important thing achieved during the last year is the integration of most children with special needs, with their regular peers in regular classes.
Since its establishment, Hurras has been working to reach the most vulnerable children, and children with disabilities. Today, Hurras Education Center includes 28 children with intellectual disability who receive special education services and case management if needed.
Initiatives Support Societal cohesion
The project aims in general to increase societal cohesion between the host and the displaced communities, as well as to support civil society initiatives to implement educational and recreational activities, as well as, activities that spread awareness for the children.
During the month of November, Hurras was able to support initiatives for three volunteer teams in the city of Azaz. The aim is to support online homeschooling, and encourage both the teachers in each voluntary team and the children on online education by providing stationery and internet cards to ensure that students have access to education from home. 200 children have benefited from these initiatives.
“We, as a volunteer team, have cooperated with Hurras Network and distributed education bags and internet cards to students who have dropped out of school due to Covid 19. As for today, our volunteer team managed to reach out 45 students. Seeing the smile and hope on the faces of the children encourages me every day to work and volunteer to serve them” Rami, a volunteer team official says.
Number of initiatives taken by Community Protection Committees within schools are 9, and have benefited 2085 children during the month of October.
Schools matching to standards for the prevention of COVID-19 have reopened
Within the precise procedures followed by Hurras Network, 81 schools have been prepared for physical attendance out of 120 schools supported by Hurras Network and we are seeking to complete the preparations for the rest of the schools. As a first step, schools were evaluated according to multiple aspects to ensure that schools are ready to implement preventive measures, those such: the presence of sufficient spaces to carry out spacing, the existence of a plan to distribute children to classrooms and yards in addition to a permanent sterilisation plan. After completing the evaluation processes, water, detergents and auxiliary materials in the sterilisation procedures were provided.
The principal of one of the schools says: “I was very happy when the school support materials arrived to implement safe return procedures. I felt that there are people who care about the children, especially when I saw cardboard cups in the distribution so the child would drink and dispose of the cup to avoid exchanging tools. Attention to details made us feel that your response is focused on the child and its safety.”
Hurras Network continued to provide the necessary training for protection officials and school principals as part of the safe return plan. The number of trainees deserving certificates reached 139 during the past month. In addition, Hurras Network participated in the inaugural conference, in coordination with the education directorates in Aleppo and Idlib, in which the education coordinator and the child safeguarding coordinator from Hurras Network team participated with interventions on the dangers of distance education, the risks of physical education and the most important measures taken to prevent risks.
All our teams working remotely and in the field are intensifying their efforts to ensure that all 33,000 children within the schools supported by Hurras Network will have the opportunity to safely return to school seats.
Child protection challenges and reaching the most vulnerable children in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
As the spread of the Covid-19 virus increases in the north and northwest of the country, the protection risks that children may be exposed to as a result of them, their families or their loved ones being infected have increased, Hurras network intensified their efforts in emergency response to reach the most vulnerable children. This is through systematic visits to places of displacement to reach the most vulnerable children.
Diala, program team member at Hurras Network, says: “Reaching 3,500 children within a short period of time was a great challenge, especially since the visits are individual. Can you imagine 3500 visits integrated with protection activities during a period of only 30 days?! Within this activity, we focused on reaching the most in-need children aging from 6 to 12 years, a simple psychological support activity is provided with a guarantee of prevention and separation measures. Cases of children who have been completely drop-out-of education, as well as children who have protection risks, are monitored. An awareness activity about Coronavirus and the importance of returning to education is provided, then handing over the hygiene and self-learning bag that contains personal hygiene equipment, stationery, and self-learning equipment, including reading and math books in addition to a special issue of Tayara Warak (the Kite) magazine about awareness on Corona. Finally, hygiene bags are distributed to the parents.
During the month of September, Hurras Network managed to reach five camps and eight shelters, which included 3,500 boys and girls.
All our teams working remotely and in the field are intensifying their efforts to face protection risks after the spread of the pandemic, reaching the most vulnerable children in society and providing them with the necessary protection services.
Psychological support sessions are a window to a new, more flexible life
The most affected by the war is the child,Today, after 10 years of war, the child has been subjected to severe trauma that has made him/her lose his/her flexibility to face social isolation due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in northern Syria, we stand before an important entitlement as civil society organisations to support children psychologically and help them to continue and overcome challenges they faced.
More than 1500 children were provided with the necessary support by Hurras psychological supporters team during the month of September through several programs, including the Social-Emotional Learning Program, the Resilience Program, and the “I am Now Stronger” Program. All programs aim to increase children’s resilience and psychological resistance towards the difficult circumstances that they may go through, in addition to awareness sessions that aim to help them face social isolation and make them aware of what the virus is and how to overcome it and get rid of their anxiety towards it.
As the psychological supporter, Jumana says: “The issues that cause anxiety for the child are clearly shown in the pre-drawings, while the drawings implemented by the child through the psychological support activities clearly show higher openness and flexibility and his focus on what brings him happiness”
Hurras Network believes that every child has the right to receive the necessary support and have a safe, psychologically and physically sound life, and we have worked to achieve this since our establishment in 2013.
Children of Syria and children of Cameroon
A new cooperation of its kind is present between Hurras Network and Wafa Child Protection Organization in the State of Cameron. Despite the different circumstances that children are exposed to in both countries, the Covid-19 virus united the vision between the two organizations.
The specific materials that Hurras Network worked on and developed in a child-friendly language to educate children about the most important dangers facing them due to the outbreak of the Corona pandemic and how to prevent it were shared by the Wafa in Cameron as part of the awareness campaigns that it carried out during the month of September, bringing the number of beneficiaries to the protection activities of the Wafa organization to 1120 children. 361 children of them benefited from awareness materials within the cooperation between the two organizations. We would like to thank Wafa for the effective cooperation and inclusion of a system of informed consent from children as they are photographed when receiving services.
“I felt proud that the materials I worked on were not limited to responding to Syrian children, but were appropriate for different cultures, and more children benefited from them,” added the responsible for developing the materials within the Hurras team.
Since the establishment of Hurras, the Child Media team has been working on converting all basic protection messages into a child-friendly language, so that they are issued as interactive drawings and messages that are easy for the child to memorize and remember.
Exploitative labor and child marriage are broad headlines for the suffering of children
Deprivation of the right to education, exploitative employment and child marriage, broad headlines for the suffering of children in northwestern Syria after years of war, along with high cost of living and the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Facing these phenomena is the responsibility of everyone, including parents, caregivers, community members, and civil society organizations. For years, the Hurras team worked on responding to the most important protection risks facing children through direct intervention to provide them with urgent protection as well as mitigate risks through multiple activities, including awareness raising campaigns.
During the past two months, we focused on raising awareness of the dangers of child marriage, and within the campaigns we targeted all parties concerned with child protection. During the month of September, Hurras were able to reach 1,500 children and 1,000 adults. The campaign focused on key messages, the most important of which are: Completing schooling provides boys and girls with better opportunities to grow and transform into successful and fruitful adults in their societies, allowing adolescent girls and adolescent boys to reach adulthood and develop their bodies and minds before we expect them to address the social, economic, and family responsibilities of marriage and children, pregnancy before 18 years old can lead to serious medical complications, and sometimes even death to the mother and child. We must always seek alternative solutions to marriage.
Hurras Network team also shared the network’s help numbers and explained the importance of referring cases of vulnerable children and the importance of providing them with urgent protection. The Hurras Network team has intensified its efforts to reduce the potential protection risks that children face during the past months, especially after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Protection committees volunteers, unknown heroes:
I am Ahmed Salam, I started my volunteer work in the Child Protection Committee two years ago and over time, I was trained on the concepts of case management and monitoring cases of vulnerable children. I have seen many cases, monitored them, and referred them to the case management department in the Hurras Network or to other actors who can help. I was actually able to help some cases while failing to help others.
One of the cases that I monitored was of two children who live alone after the death of their parents in an unqualified house, which lacks the most basic needs. Personally, I was greatly affected and registered the case immediately because it falls under the criteria of sever vulnerability. I contacted the facilitator of the committee and the case management coordinator in the HRS network, and I devoted all my efforts to providing assistance to them. I took their informed consent to photograph and share their suffering, which was very echoed in reflected reactions to assistance from several agencies, including the Child Protection Committee, so that suitable furniture for the home, electrical power equipment, and other in-kind and food items were provided. Most important of all of the above was the follow-up that culminated in the children’s return to school. I felt very happy and anyone in my place would have felt it because he was able to make a difference in the lives of these children.
Hurras worked to establish 33 protection committees and train its volunteers on the basics of child protection, so that Hurras would later be an effective and supportive member within these committees. The committees are distributed over different regions in Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo. The work of the Protection Committee is focused on monitoring protection cases and referring them to acting agencies, in addition to their effective role in creating cohesion among society.
Accelerated education and children’s return to education is an inherent right
500,000 children out of school, according to reports issued by the Assistance Coordination Unit. Hurras has worked hard over the past months to support children who are deprived of education and to provide accelerated education courses that would be a reason for their return to school, in addition to systematic awareness campaigns about return to education targeting children who have been out of school in the most war-affected areas in northern Syria.
Last month, Hurras’ team focused on completing lesson materials’ reviews from first to fourth grade within the accelerated education curriculum and uploaded them to the e-learning platform, which is the primary approved platform for distance education that reaches more than 100,000 children.
Zahra, a female student, says: “I remember my first school. It was beautiful, my class was colorful. The school was bombed and we were displaced to Idlib. I was able to return to school after completing a number of accelerated education sessions, and I hope that my school will remain safe so that I do not lose more academic years”.
147 children today hope to enroll in formal education, after being supervised by Hurras team directly through WhatsApp groups within the accelerated education sessions which completed in September.
Hurras continues to focus its work on the most vulnerable children and we believe that adequate education is a fundamental and inherent right that we all must work to provide.
Ten new libraries to ensure love for reading and more reading time for most vulnerable children
After schools’ closure due to confirming the first case of Covid-19 in the region, Hurras Network equipped 10 libraries within the schools in Azaz and its countryside, in order to ensure a distinct return for children.This was done with the support of and cooperation with the Directorate of Education in Killis, Turkey, and the Syrian Education Directorate in Azaz. The equipment for each library includes: foam floors, tables and chairs, closet and stationery, educational games, and a first aid kit.
Ismail Hamami, our office manager in Azaz, says: “These libraries are safe spaces for children and aim to create an environment that encourages them to learn and read.”Hundreds of children are expected to benefit from the libraries during the next school year.
Hundreds of children in northern Syria have been deprived of education due to nine years of war and displacement. Their schools have been destroyed, so we have to strive to return these children to their natural place in the best possible way.
Behaviour change communication and outreach despite COVID-19
After confirming cases of Covid-19 virus in the north and northwest of the country, the awareness teams of Hurras Network strengthen their activities, in educating people about the dangers of the virus and the most important child protection risks that may appear in light of the outbreak of the pandemic.
Hurras Network conducted several awareness campaigns during the month of August, the most important of which was the awareness campaign in a child-friendly language on the negative effects of child labor on the physical and psychological health of the child. Child labor has increased at high rates in Syrian societies, especially after the decline in the price of the Syrian pound and the deterioration of the economic conditions of families in northwestern Syria.
Muhammad Al-Abdullah and Jumana from the psychological support and awareness team in charge of implementing the campaigns, Jumana says: “The campaign addresses the types of child labor and explains in a simple way the consequences of labor on children and its negative effects on their survival and development.
The campaign is considered one of the components of the emergency child protection response directed at displaced people and children affected by crises to strengthen the surrounding protection system and build the capacities of community actors to protect the most vulnerable children and protect the rights of children during crises and wars”.
The awareness team managed to reach 3,480 children and adults in the two campaigns on child rights and awareness of the dangers of child labor during the month of August.
All our teams working on the ground are intensifying their efforts to confront this pandemic, and to spread awareness as much as possible about how to prevent it and avoid protection risks facing children in light of its spread.
THE EFFECTS OF HAZARDOUS LABOR & THE WORST FORM OF LABOR ON CHILDREN
Distance PSS , a unique experience with validated outcomes
Today, the children of the world suffer from loneliness and isolation due to the closure of schools, and the children of northern Syria in particular suffer from double psychological pressure due to difficult living conditions after years of war and continuous displacement. It is very important to reactivate all the psychological support teams of civil society organizations to play their role in supporting these children. The psychological support teams of the Child Guardians have intensified their psychological support efforts and devised a method that fits with the isolation measures after the discovery of the first case of COVID-19 in northern Syria.
Remote psychological support is a unique experience that has proven effectiveness, according to Ahlam’s father who says:“My daughter Ahlam, and after a break from school for more than a month and staying in our humble tent with the intense heat, she lost her desire to play and draw, as she and her siblings had to drop out of education several times due to the frequent displacement that our family was subjected to due to the targeting of our house. After Ahlam joined the psychological support sessions that are conducted by Hurras Networks’ teams, she has been preparing every day for the session. I could see her laugh with her siblings while they performed their activities. Today, Ahlam is able to draw again, which helps her to spend quality time during the long boring day we live in the camps.”
Psychological support teams were able to draw a smile for nearly 57,000 children during the emergency response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Exceptional work for exceptional children Continues
“When Abd al-Hay went to the center, he was going to a place he loved so much. He would wake up early at six o’clock to prepare himself. The moments of waiting are difficult for Aboudeh, but also these are many precious moments for him. However, as the first case of Covid-19 was discovered, the program of Abd al-Hay changed to be at home. Aboudeh felt very upset due to the change of his routine, he was no longer going to the place he loved. He was psychologically affected negatively, but the continued support of Miss Banan eased a lot. He started arranging the house and waiting for her every day with a notebook and a pen”.
“In addition to the frequent visits of his teacher, Abd al-Hay’s education continued through the Disability Inclusion Group on the WhatsApp application with his friends. The truth was that I was concerned that Aboudeh would behave or interact negatively with the group, but the surprise was his positive interaction and commitment to the teacher’s instructions. Praise be to God, my child has will and confidence in his teachers.” . Abd al-Hay’s mother.
During August, the special education team at Hurras Network was keen to ensure the continuity of supporting the education of 27 children with disabilities, and they also worked on integrating 17 children with disabilities into education groups, while adhering to the individual plan for each child during the month of August.
Miss Dalal and Distance Education - Covid 19
Since the first positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Idlib, schools have been closed by a decision of the Education Directorate to preserve students’ health, and education has moved to distance education.
Child Guardians supports children and follow up on their education in Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo districts, where an electronic learning platform has been established in coordination with the Manahel Project and several partner organizations, so that first-grade to fifth-grade students can continue their education in 118 schools.
Approximately 18,000 children continued to receive distance education out of 33,000 children who had been reached by Child Guardians teams at schools, due to the collapse of infrastructure after 9 years of bombing and the difficulty of providing the Internet to children and their families.
Miss Dalal -one of our teachers- says: “The hearts that students send to me after every class are what drive me to continue my work!”“When a child lives in an atmosphere of fear and instability frequently, it is important to maintain the routine as much as possible because of its importance to help the child cope and recover in a proper way.” “Bara’a, one of my previous students, who has been out of education for years due to frequent displacement. However, as we educate online now, I was able to communicate with her family and she was able to join our virtual classroom.”
The distance education program is one of Child Guardians’ programs within the education sector to ensure that children get the necessary routines to maintain their mental health. The aim of the program is to ensure the continuation of the educational process despite the tragic circumstances in which they live. Child Guardians were able to reach 9,259 girls and 10,293 children in August 2020.