Childhood under siege

Living and dying in besieged areas of Syria

| Save the Children | 2016

Childhood under siege

At least a quarter of a million children1 are living under brutal siege in areas of Syria that have effectively been turned into open-air prisons. They and their families are cut off from the outside world, surrounded by warring groups that illegally use siege against civilians as a weapon of war, preventing food, medicine, fuel and other vital supplies from entering and stopping people from fleeing. Amid the spiralling atrocities in Syria, these children are among the most vulnerable of all. They want the world to hear their story.

This report aims to shed light on the terrifying reality of life and death that is being endured by people – particularly children – in besieged areas of Syria, and show the urgent need for the international community to take action. Save the Children and partners have conducted 22 focus groups with 126 mothers, fathers and children living in besieged areas of Syria, as well as 25 extensive interviews with local aid groups, doctors, teachers and individuals.


Our research illustrates the horrific impact of these sieges on the lives of children:

  • In 16 of the 17 adult focus groups, people reported that children in their community have died from illnesses because medicine or adequate healthcare is unavailable as a result of the siege.
  • People in all 22 focus groups said they have had to cut the number of meals they eat in a day by half or more. In seven of the groups (32%), people said they are sometimes unable to eat even one meal a day, with four of the adult groups (24%) reporting that local children have died from lack of food.
  • All five children’s focus groups said they live in constant fear of ongoing bombing and shelling, with all 17 adult groups observing significant changes in their children’s behaviour over the period of siege. 14 groups (82%) reported their children becoming more aggressive, withdrawn or depressed.
  • In half of the groups there were children who are unable to attend school, mainly for fear of bombing.

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