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“I hate war and weapons. They took away my education.” The EU and UNICEF help thousands of children in Syria cope with years of conflict.

“I hate war and weapons. They took away my education,” says Abdullah who was forced to leave school due to violence and restrictions on education. ©UNICEF/Delil Souleiman

Almost two years ago, Abdullah was hit by a car as he crossed the street in his hometown on the outskirts of Deir-ez-Zor in eastern Syria. The accident left the 10-year-old paralyzed. Abdullah and his family had little access to the support needed for him in the war-torn city.

By Masoud Hasen and Yasmine Saker

Six months ago, as violence escalated near their home, Abdullah and his family were faced with another challenge. Together with his parents and six siblings, Abdullah had no choice but to flee Deir-ez-Zor and seek shelter in Mabrouka, a tented camp in the middle of the desert near the border with Turkey.

We had to go from one village to another,” recalls Abdullah. “My mother and father took turns carrying me all the way.

At the camp, Abdullah received a wheelchair and was referred to a hospital where he receives physiotherapy twice a week, supported by UNICEF and funded by the EU.

I hope that one day I'll be able to walk again,” says Abdullah. “I follow the doctor’s instructions and he promised he would get me a gift when I stand on my feet.

Abdullah, 10, plays with his friends in Mabrouka makeshift camp in north-eastern Syria. He dreams of one day becoming a professional football player. ©UNICEF/Delil Souleiman

Abdullah also attends a UNICEF-supported child friendly space at the camp, where he attends school classes and receives psychosocial support to help him cope with his situation. Almost 10 000 displaced children in the north-eastern region received EU-funded psychosocial support, to help them overcome the traumas they have been through.

We want to give him hope that anything is possible,” says Faisal, the case manager following-up Abdullah’s progress. “We want him to know that no matter what his situation is, he can achieve his goals in life.

Despite everything he has been through, Abdullah always has a smile on his face and tries his best to make other people happy. “I love putting my younger sister Fatima on my lap and driving her around the camp in the wheelchair,” Abdullah says, “It makes her so happy.”

 “I hate war and weapons,” he continues. “They took away my education.” The increasing violence near his home meant that Abdullah was forced to leave school in grade 2. According to his age, Abdullah should now be in grade 5.

Before his family fled home, Abdullah spent his spare time watching his favourite cartoon Sponge Bob. Now at the camp, there is no electricity  or TV, but Abdullah has found a new interest: playing ball with his friends, using his hands and head.

Abdullah, who dreams of becoming a professional footballer one day, says, “I want to leave this wheelchair to play football again, it used to be my favorite sport.

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