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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Syrian children sing their way to better health and hygiene

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Rashidi
Young Syrian students show off their hygiene-themed art as part of a health workshop supported by UNICEF and the European Union.

AL-HASAKAH, Syria, 12 April 2010 – Songs and poetry have always played a central part in Syrian life, communicating important messages and wisdom across generations.

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Now, songs and poems are being used to promote hygiene and general health in Syria. These tools form one of the building blocks of numerous UNICEF- and European Union-sponsored workshops across the country.

“We are trying to teach a new approach [to hygiene], to find new dynamics that can catch the attention of the kids,” said Beatriz Garcia, Head of Project for the non-governmental organization Action Against Hunger. “And the kids seem to enjoy the workshop, the songs, the plays.”

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Rashidi
A student checks her homework at a hygiene workshop in Syria, organized with support from UNICEF and the European Union.

Revamping the curriculum

By working with the Ministry of Education to create ways of learning that are engaging and fun, UNICEF, the European Union and their local partners are revamping the health curriculum in Syrian schools.

Health education workshops benefit not only students but the community as a whole. Young people like those in Al-Hasakah, located in north-eastern Syria, are singing the songs they are taught – and others in the community are listening.

“I like cleaning my teeth,” said Nadir, 10, a student who has taken part in the new hygiene workshops. “They keep your face beautiful.... I told my brother he should wash his teeth so you don’t have rotten gums. Now he does it too when he didn’t before.”

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Rashidi
A girl waits her turn to make a contribution during a health and hygiene workshop in northern Syria.

Improved health and happiness

Despite progress made in promoting improved hygiene, however, the Syrian education system remains stretched.

Here – just miles from the Iraqi border – the cause of overburdened schools is clear. Many Iraqis, including many of school age, have fled to Syria with their families to escape the conflict at home. Some have subsequently returned, but the number of returnees remains low.

Health workshops such as the ones run by Action Against Hunger are a critical part of the support that UNICEF and the European Union  provide to the Syrian education system as it responds to the influx of Iraqi refugees.

“The project has reflected positively on our schools in many ways,” said Al-Hasakah’s Director of Education Munir Abdul, adding that the workshops have enhanced students’, physical and psychological health, as well as their happiness. “This has definitely affected a great improvement in education as a whole.”




UNICEF’s Rob Sixsmith reports on a programme helping young people in Syria to learn good hygiene.
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