Stepping into a brighter future

Marking the impact of 11 years of conflict on children in Syria

Sandra Awad and Rasha Alsabbagh
Teacher explaining to boy in classroom
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
16 March 2022

Nashabieh in East Ghouta, Rural Damascus, February 2022 - “Children have been hurt the most during the crisis. They have experienced terrible things and I hope, they will not scar them for life,” said Awad, 42, father of Azzam, 12.

Awad and his family have experienced firsthand the harrowing impact of the conflict. In 2015, a shell fell on the building where Awad was sitting with his children Azzam and Rakan, then 5 and 4 years old.

His wife, Manal, rushed into the room to see what had happened. “I ran like crazy to find out that my little Rakan had passed away. My husband was conscious but badly injured, and Azzam came from under the rubble covered in blood and dust. It was a nightmare,” she said. Manal carried Azzam to get help when she suddenly noticed something was missing. Azzam had lost his leg!

Azzam and his father were taken to a hospital. The incident caused paralysis to the father’s right leg and Azzam had to undergo several surgeries.

“Azzam did not feel safe for a long time after the incident. He cried when he saw a drop of blood or heard a loud noise,” said Manal.

Two girls carrying a baby and standing next to boy in a wheelchair
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Azzam, 12, surrounded by his sisters Sidra, 14, Nour, 11, and Khadijeh, 1, outside their home in Nashabieh of East Ghouta, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 21 February 2022.

To help Azzam and his siblings regain a sense of normalcy, Manal and Awad enrolled them at school shortly after their return to their hometown. “Azzam had difficulties walking to school every day. The handmade wooden sticks he used instead of actual crutches did not support him well,” said Manal. So, he dropped out.

Boy lying on ground reading a school book
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Azzam, 12, studies at home in Nashabieh of East Ghouta, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 21 February 2022.

In 2019, things started looking up for Azzam. He visited Al-Nashabieh Al-Mohdatheh elementary school, a UNICEF -rehabilitated and equipped school, to support inclusivity of children with disabilities.

Azzam and his sisters Sidra and Nour have not missed a day of school since. “He always shows a strong will to learn new things,” said Abir, Azzam’s teacher.

“I’m glad I can go to school, have fun with my friends and learn,” Azzam confirmed.

“I’m glad I can go to school, have fun with my friends and learn,”

Azzam, 12
Boys playing with a ball with other boy in a wheelchair in school yard
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Azzam, 12, plays with his friends during a sports class in the yard of Al-Nashabieh Al-Mohdatheh school in Nashabieh, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 21 February 2022.