In October 2016, a Sky News report on Syrian children featured a boy called Ahmad Haj Qeleh. 7 months later, SB Overseas’ partner, the “Red Zone Team”, found him in Aleppo.
In October 2016, a Sky News video report titled “Aleppo’s children: Report from Sky’s special correspondent” (*WARNING: graphic content*) featured Ahmad Haj Qeleh, a 10-year-old boy born in the war torn city of Aleppo. Sky News’ Alex Crawford was reporting from the Turkish-Syrian border on the realities of life for children in Aleppo at the height of the siege. Ahmad was working everyday at a rubbish tip to scavenge for fuel to sell. This work was essential to provide food and make a living for his family.
In the video, Ahmad describes his harsh daily routine: “I go out in the morning and make the first and second delivery at 7 o’clock. After that, I put both of them on the cart. I then bring them here. I work eight hours, then I leave. After that I go have lunch and then I come back to work.”
Seeking to find out what had become of Ahmad, SB Overseas worked together with their partner organisation, the “Red Zone Team”, to find him. They found him covered in black ashes, still working at the rubbish tip. When he saw them, he broke out the biggest smile on his face, seeing that the outside community still cares about the forgotten children of Syria.
Ahmad had lost his family to the violence, which has not stopped in Syria with the end of the siege in Aleppo. On the 15th of April 2017, a car bomb hit a convoy of buses carrying civilians evacuated from besieged towns in Syria; dozens of people died. The most heart-breaking report of this tragedy was from photographer Abd Alkader Habak, who witnessed the scene as he was reporting on the evacuation. “The scene was horrible – especially seeing children wailing and dying in front of you”. Mr. Habak was photographed carrying a child to an ambulance and falling to his knees in shock.
The Red Zone Team decided that Ahmad needed their help. They found him a foster family to stay with, and with the support of SB Overseas, they were able to offer him a monthly stipend to provide him with food and support his education.
Children of Ahmad’s age are still growing and developing, and should be getting an education to fulfil their promise. Instead many Syrian children are forced to work for long hours, and for almost no money – yet they feel that this is how things are supposed to be.
This situation is worsened for those children who have lost their parents, as is underlined by research from the Melissa Institute. Parents are so important to a child’s development: they are there to provide support, guidance and care in distressing situations. Without parents, these children must face their psychological problems daily without any support. As a result, more and more of them rely on international support to help heal their many scars.
SB Overseas has a unique ability, through its partnership with the Red Zone Team, to reach dangerous areas. This makes us able to deliver emergency humanitarian aid donated from across the world, including clothes, food and medicine, into areas where people are suffering with the greatest need. Through the Red Zone Team, we are able to reach children such as Ahmad, and offer them a reprieve from the harshness of their daily life.
Author: Petra Nieminen, Communications & Social Media Intern