The UAE is increasingly viewed as an important player in the field of humanitarian aid, particularly in situations of crisis. Since 1971, the UAE has given more than Dh225 billion in foreign aid to more than 90 countries. This trend continued at last week’s Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference, where the UAE received praise for its pledge of Dh1.1 billion to assist Syrian refugees.
Syria’s refugees are in desperate need of safe shelters, medical assistance, food and water. The UAE’s money, which it will distribute outside of the UN framework, will go a long way in providing these basic services.
But the UAE could also play a leadership role in ensuring that Syrian children have access to something often overlooked during times of conflict: education.
In their recent report Childhood Under Fire, the UK-based agency Save The Children detailed the effect of the two-year crisis on Syrian children. Young people have been uprooted from their homes, and witnessed death and destruction. Many are separated from their families. Syrian children have experienced tragedies that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Without the much-needed physical protection and psychosocial counselling offered to refugee children in schools, Syria’s displaced young people will not be able to cope. As reported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there have been cases of children taking their own lives in refugee camps, overwhelmed by the stress. Others, especially those who are not protected by a parent, are in danger of being subjected to harm, exploitation and abduction.