8.4 million of these people are children. Over the past 5 years, too many of them have suffered profoundly.
The #ActOfHumanity animation above by UNICEF tells a representative story of one boy's actual experience.
Mustafa was a young boy when the war arrived. Bombs and fighting in the streets became a daily routine. He was pulled from school and life at home became hard. His family was swallowed one by one by the war: brothers were conscripted or abducted and people scattered from the violence. He soon found himself utterly alone, his entire life had crumbled around him. Separated from all that he knew, he began an arduous journey to a refugee camp.
He brought along a few of his favorite toys for comfort. They meant the world to him. As he crossed rough terrain and waters in scary conditions, his toys were a link to home and his past. They were his only friends and they distracted him from the bleakness of all that his life had become.
Throughout the journey, he struggled to get food and water. The fear and uncertainty of being alone and without a clear future weighed on him. Each day his energy waned a little more. Eventually his toys became too heavy, he had become so weak, and he had to leave them behind.
Now Mustafa is 13 and living in a refugee camp. He doesn’t know the primary language so he has trouble knowing what’s going on and making friends. He has no idea where his family is or how they are doing. He hopes none of them are dead.
Fairy tales are stories of imagination. They tell of events too surreal to actually happen.
Similarly, Mustafa’s story seems too surreal to actually happen--I’m sure it feels that way to him. Since the war began, his life, and the lives of so many real children, has been grimly inverted.
Fairy tales usually have a happy ending, a moral lesson woven from a zany plot.
But Mustafa’s story is far darker. There have been no hints of fairies or anything else magical swooping in to save him. This absence of hope makes his story an Unfairy Tale and, as UNICEF makes clear, it’s a tale that no child should ever have to live through.
Despite Mustafa’s plight, he managed to gather the strength and courage to share his story, a story that now stands for all the other children who are unable to share their stories. All their war stories are different, but they’re all the same in at least one regard: none of them should have ever happened.
To help these children escape the war and begin a new chapter of their life, the world needs to contribute millions of acts of humanity.
The first #ActOfHumanity begins with recognizing the humanity of Mustafa and all the other refugees in the world.
Next, countries around the world have to accept refugees at much higher rates and send far more aid to countries bearing most of the burden. According to the UN, it will take $7.7 billion USD to meet the urgent needs of Syrian refugees in 2016. Billions more will be needed to get children back to school, families back in homes with water and electricity, parents back to work and the web of social cohesion to be threaded once more in their communities.