90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Syria’s Children And The Cost Of War

Syria’s children, and the human toll of three years of war.

In this Tuesday, March 11, 2014 photo, an aid worker measures the upper arm circumference of 9-month-old Shurouk as her mother Mervat, 31, holds her inside their tent at a camp for Syrian refugees camp in Kab Elias, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. uch stark malnutrition was rare in Syria in the past, but as the country’s conflict enters its fourth year, international aid workers fear malnutrition is rising among children in Syria and among refugees amid the collapse in the health care system. (AP)

In this Tuesday, March 11, 2014 photo, an aid worker measures the upper arm circumference of 9-month-old Shurouk as her mother Mervat, 31, holds her inside their tent at a camp for Syrian refugees camp in Kab Elias, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. uch stark malnutrition was rare in Syria in the past, but as the country’s conflict enters its fourth year, international aid workers fear malnutrition is rising among children in Syria and among refugees amid the collapse in the health care system. (AP)

The death toll as Syria’s terrible conflict and civil war heads into its fourth year now approaches 150,000.  But it is the living who suffer.  Barrel bombs and chemical warfare.  Siege and starvation and mass torture.  For all its tensions, Syria was a pretty settled, comfortable, middle-income country of schools and business and holidays.  Now it’s a raging hell of destruction and displacement.  Blasted families and desperate refugees.  40 percent of all Syrians have fled their homes.  And in the middle of it all — bewildered, suffering children.  This hour On Point:  Syria’s suffering, and the plight of Syria’s children.

– Tom Ashbrook


Patrick McDonell, Beirut bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. (@mcdneville)

Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Damascus.

Nigel Pont, regional director for the Middle East for Mercy Corps. (@NigelPont)

Karl Schembri, regional media manager on the Syria Crisis Response for Save the Children. (@Karl_Schembri)

Courtland Robinson, deputy director for the Center for Refugees and Disaster Response at Johns Hopkins Univeristy’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How And Where To Donate To Syrian Aid Efforts

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: On third anniversary of Syrian rebellion, Assad is steadily winning the war — “Three years into the revolt against his rule, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in a stronger position than ever before to quell the rebellion against his rule by Syrians who rose up to challenge his hold on power, first with peaceful protests and later with arms. Aided by the steadfast support of his allies and the deepening disarray of his foes, Assad is pressing ahead with plans to be reelected to a third seven-year term this summer while sustaining intense military pressure intended to crush his opponents.”

Los Angeles Times: Syrian military retakes Yabroud, a rebel stronghold — “The capture of Yabroud, coming as the Syrian war enters its fourth year, underscores how much the conflict has turned in the government’s favor. The town lies close to the major highway leading from Damascus, the capital, north to the key cities of Homs, Hama and Aleppo, and another roadway heading west to the Mediterranean coast. Its capture brings renewed security to the crucial arteries, which have often been cut by fighting.”

The Guardian: Syria: fears of a lost generation as UN and World Vision highlight cost of war — “As the Syrian conflict enters its fourth year, Unicef, the UN agency for children, says the number of children affected has more than doubled, from 2.3 million a year ago. The number of children displaced inside Syria has increased from 920,000 to almost 3 million, while the number of child refugees has risen from 260,000 to more than 1.2 million amid the world’s largest humanitarian disaster.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • John Christopher sunol

    Killing the children and traumatising the children is stealing Syrias future, as the children are the future of a country

  • Shag_Wevera

    This topic is a little obvious. War is seldom good for children, anywhere.

  • Human2013

    What happens when the children see “war” as a normal part of life

  • Peter Duveen

    The US and neighboring Middle East countries have created the conditions for the plight of children in Syria by funding and arming the so-called “insurgency.”

    • creaker

      We created a much worse situation in Iraq in the 90′s.

  • Peter Duveen

    “For all its tensions, Syria was a pretty settled, comfortable, middle-income country of schools and business and holidays.” Now look what US policy has done to this country and to its children!

    • Ray in VT

      So Assad played no role in turning many of his own people against him?

      • Peter Duveen

        As Tom’s first guest indicated, Assad has widespread support now, even among those who oppose some of his policies. Hope you were listening.

        • Ray in VT

          Nope. No audio on the PC that I am currently on.

    • jimino

      Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the tens of thousands of people wiped out or disappeared at Hama by the Assads would probably have a different view of the country.

    • Samuel Goldring

      From Infoplease.com a neutral account on the origins of the Syrian Violence

      The anti-government protest movement that swept through the Middle East in early 2011 also engulfed Syria. Syria, however, was spared the unrest until mid-March, when the arrest of about a dozen school-age children for painting anti-government graffiti in the southeast town of Dara’a sparked outrage, prompting citizens to take to the streets in protest. Demonstrations broke out throughout the country, with protesters calling for the release of political prisoners, an end to pervasive corruption, the lifting of the emergency law that has stood since 1963, and broader civil rights. On March 25, the government reneged on a promise not to use force against the protesters, opening fire on demonstrators in the south. As many as 60 people were killed.The political crisis deepened in the following days, and on March 29, President Assad’s cabinet resigned. Massive protests and the crackdown by police continued, and by April 18 as many as 200 protestors had been killed. As the opposition movement gained strength, President Assad tried to balance suppression and compromise, offering some reform and lifting the emergence law while forbidding protests “under any banner whatsoever.”

      Assad in fact did attempt to thwart protests, deploying troops to several cities across Syria and brutally cracking down on protesters. By late May about 850 protesters had been killed by forces. The continued suppression led the Obama administration to impose sanctions on Assad and six other high-ranking officials. Assad intensified the attacks on protesters in early August, unleashing tanks, armored vehicles, and snipers on the restive city of Hama, historically a breeding ground for anti-government sentiment. By the end of the siege, casualties reached about 1,700. The particularly brutal assaults prompted widespread international condemnation, even from Syria’s Arab neighbors. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait removed their ambassadors from Damascus. In mid-August, Obama issued a statement demanding that Assad resign and increased sanctions against Syria, freezing all Syrian assets held under U.S. jurisdiction and banning U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with the Syrian government. In addition, the UN released a report accusing Syria of crimes against humanity

      Read more: Syria: Maps, History, Geography, Government, Culture, Facts.| Infoplease.com

  • MarkVII88

    The American people are tired of war, having fought (perhaps wastefully) for the past 12 years in two theaters. It doesn’t matter how many children are suffering, there isn’t the humanitarian and political will to do what it takes to make a difference in Syria now. The American people don’t want to spend the money and they don’t want to spend their human capital. And aren’t there enough issues to solve here at home before we take on the responsibility for Syria. I understand, as a true hegemon, that the US is not the same as other UN nations so our general indifference to Syrian suffering doesn’t do much for our global image. Therein lies the real pressure to act because we do have the power and resources but are waiting for someone else to step up first and take the reigns.

    • Peter Duveen

      Yet, according to past experience, to act is to destroy. Americans do not want to spend what is left of their taxable income destroying the lives and livelihood of other countries. It is our intervention that has caused this crisis, so for those calling for humanitarian intervention, it is a bit disingenuous.

      • MarkVII88

        I’d rather the US remain indifferent going forward. I’d rather my money be spent on improving on the many problems here at home.

        • Peter Duveen

          It would certainly be better to work on domestic problems than to muck it up abroad. I’m with you, Mark.

  • Brian

    Thanks for your show today. Appreciate what is being discussed, as usual. Syria and Crimea are connected sadly by the refusal of Vladimir Putin to respect international norms. All the rest of the world was ready to support the democratic process in Syria how many months ago but for Russia. Now Putin has again thumbed his nose at the world in Crimea. How long will one rogue nation be permitted to stand in the way of democracy as it seeks to spread where depotic regimes don’t want it?

    • MvGuy

      by the refusal of Vladimir Putin to respect international norms.””””””””””””””””” Yeah, just like WE did in Iraq.. huh..??

  • Jenny Johnson

    What can everyday Americans do to help the families and children of Syria?
    Please give us concrete ways that we can help these children.
    Giving us the news of the disasterous situation is one thing, but how about a complete hour show on the ways Americans can directly help these families?

    • leibniz09

      Impeach Obama for supporting this terrorists assets that are pushing this war along with the destruction of Libya and the Ukraine.

      This is the way you help these families. You stop the people responsible for this civil war, which is the west, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

  • Marianne
  • Rouba

    Hi Tom, excellent show. I was on the phone earlier when I got cut off. As I said I’m originally from Aleppo , this city was chosen in 2010 to be the Arab capital of culture by UNESCO, this city was on the silk road for many many years, look at it now , this city was known for civilization and culture is now DESTROYED. People are suffering with everyday life from minimum of 2 hrs/ day of electricity and water , food might be available in some areas but it’s so expensive, people are not working as a lots of business has been destroyed , people are getting robbed , kidnapped , raped for many stupid reason like for example because they don’t follow this religion. Taliban left Afganistan and moved over to Syria ..all the sides are fighting, all the international community is watching and these people like my mom and my cousins and my friends who I grew up with them are suffering .
    It’s really bad there , we are going to have 2 or 3 generation of children who will be suffering from a lots of anxiety , deppression and hate ness because of this war…

  • Jay

    SYRIA: ‘Obama Overtly supports Al-Qaeda, Provides Terrorists with Chemical Weapons’: Michel Chossudovsky


    • Ray in VT

      I see claims, but no citations or references to sources to back those claims up. I love the New World Order thing that they’ve got going on over there at that site, by the way.

      • Jay

        Next you’re going to make the claim that Obama hasn’t maimed or killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of innocent people with illegal drone strikes. That’s all made up as well, right?

        • Ray in VT

          Why would I claim that? Those facts are well established. The administration supporting and arming Al Qaeda is not established by facts. It is certainly alleged, but allegations are easy. I once had a class with someone who argued that homosexuality brought down the Roman Empire. That does not make it so.

    • hennorama

      Jay — yet another ridiculous claim, from yet another ridiculous source. Very well done, sir.

      Your source is an “interview” by the Russian State Radio Company Voice of Russia, of the linked website’s own editor, as if this editor is some impartial expert.

      The website’s editor makes a ridiculous claim, then claims it is “confirmed by a December 9 CNN report.”

      One minor problem: the “December 9 CNN report” does no such thing.


  • Jay
    • Dee Dee B

      .. and you read this where.. tea turd news.. or faux noise?
      Interesting how no mention of war criminals bush and Cheney who both should have hung in the gallows with Sadaam Hussein

  • hennorama

    Unfortunately, Syria’s children likely won’t see the end of this war until they’re teens and adults. This is because, per the title of a WaPo article from last October,

    Political science says Syria’s civil war will probably last at least another decade:


  • Vic

    Is there anything the western powers and influential, secular powers like Russia and China even do in Syria?

    We keep talking about humanitarian support. How about talking about ending the root of all these problems, the violence between two Wahabi fundamentalists and status quo?

    We have all forgotten about the 1980-1988 (considered to be the longest conventional war) between Iraq and Iran that killed 1,000,000 soldiers and civilians combined and displaced countless others.

    Coincidentally, New York Times has this in opinions today: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/opinion/shah-pakistans-culture-wars.html

    If the moderates in the Muslims on many sides don’t step in, this conflict, which happened before between Iran and Iraq, again in Iraq after America triggered Saddam’s collapse, happening now in large scale in Syria, will repeat itself.

    Pakistan and Nigeria are facing so many incidents where militants attack schools and secular public institutions.

    if the Muslim moderates do nothing, these countries would be having a full-blown civil war soon and Syria would be tame in comparison.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment