Generation War: Children in Sudan Today

A refugee mother from Darfur in Sudan holds her son during his medical exam, at the hospital set up by the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the refugee camp of Metche, eastern Chad, 05 April 2024. EPA/STRINGER
A refugee mother from Darfur in Sudan holds her son during his medical exam, at the hospital set up by the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the refugee camp of Metche, eastern Chad, 05 April 2024. EPA/STRINGER
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Generation War: Children in Sudan Today

A refugee mother from Darfur in Sudan holds her son during his medical exam, at the hospital set up by the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the refugee camp of Metche, eastern Chad, 05 April 2024. EPA/STRINGER
A refugee mother from Darfur in Sudan holds her son during his medical exam, at the hospital set up by the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the refugee camp of Metche, eastern Chad, 05 April 2024. EPA/STRINGER

Amna Ishaq can no longer feed her children "more than once a day and sometimes not at all" after nearly a year of devastating war in Sudan.
"We are all sick, along with our children. We have nothing to eat and the water we find is polluted," Ishaq told AFP at a camp for the displaced in Darfur.
The vast western region is no stranger to war, suffering devastation in a deadly conflict that began in 2003 and which also sparked a hunger crisis.
With war returning to Sudan last April, the United Nations has warned that "an entire generation could be destroyed".
The world body says millions of displaced children are starving, have been forced into marriage or become child soldiers and threatened with death.
The fighting broke out on April 15, 2023 between Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's army and Mohammed Hamdan Daglo's Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Looting, fighting, air strikes and roads cut by warring factions have isolated every region of Sudan, a northeast African country more than three times the size of France.
The UN says it has been able to reach only 10 percent of Sudan's 48 million people, with the country on the brink of famine.
At Otach, a displacement camp set up two decades ago in South Darfur where Ishaq has taken refuge with her family, rations of maize porridge no longer arrive.
About "222,000 children could die of starvation within a few weeks or months" and "more than 700,000 this year", according to the UN.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that at least one child dies every two hours at North Darfur's Zamzam displacement camp alone.
And at Kalma camp in South Darfur, the aid group Alight said that "more than two children are dying every 12 hours".
Children have been sold
Medical journal The Lancet has reported that the small Al-Buluk pediatric hospital in the capital Khartoum admits "about 25 children for severe acute malnutrition. Each week, two or three of them die."
Overall, nearly three million children are suffering from malnutrition and 19 million are no longer in school, according to Save the Children, endangering the future of a nation where 42 percent of the population is under 14 years old.
Even before this war, nearly half of Sudan's children had severely reduced growth and 70 percent were unable to read and understand a simple sentence, the charity says.
Adam Regal, spokesman for independent Sudanese aid group General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur, said he has seen dozens of children die.
He blamed "the stubbornness" of the warring parties, telling AFP that "food and humanitarian aid no longer arrive" because of a lack of access.
A Khartoum factory that produced nutritional supplements for children has been destroyed by bombing and vaccine factories for newborns have been looted.
Cholera, measles and malaria prevail in eastern parts of the country.
Adding to the health crisis are the horrors of war.
More and more Sudanese organizations are warning that to feed their children parents are resorting to "selling" some of them.
One local charity reported that a father sold his 15-year-old daughter for a few bags of grain at a market.
The UN has also recorded child marriages in response to "family separations" -- mothers or fathers who have lost their spouses or children while fleeing violence in panic -- or because of "gender-based and sexual violence including rape and unwanted pregnancies".
Rape and child soldiers
The UN said young girls and women have been the victims of "abductions, forced marriages, and sexual violence related to the conflict in Darfur and in the state of Al-Jazira" south of Khartoum, where many displaced people are.
The dangers facing boys are different: both the army and the paramilitaries, but also tribal and ethnic militias, "recruit and use children in Darfur, Kordofan, Khartoum, and in the east of the country", the experts said.
Some parties even force "children from a neighboring country to actively participate in hostilities", they added.
Since the early days of the war, videos uploaded by soldiers and paramilitaries regularly show teenagers on military pickup trucks or with automatic rifles in hand.
It's the "catastrophe of a generation", UN officials said.



Syrians in Lebanon Fear Unprecedented Restrictions, Deportations 

A Syrian refugee boy runs at an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon May 23, 2024. (Reuters)
A Syrian refugee boy runs at an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon May 23, 2024. (Reuters)
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Syrians in Lebanon Fear Unprecedented Restrictions, Deportations 

A Syrian refugee boy runs at an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon May 23, 2024. (Reuters)
A Syrian refugee boy runs at an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon May 23, 2024. (Reuters)

The soldiers came before daybreak, singling out the Syrian men without residence permits from the tattered camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. As toddlers wailed around them, Mona, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon for a decade, watched Lebanese troops shuffle her brother onto a truck headed for the Syrian border.

Thirteen years since Syria's conflict broke out, Lebanon remains home to the largest refugee population per capita in the world: roughly 1.5 million Syrians - half of whom are refugees formally registered with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR - in a country of approximately 4 million Lebanese.

They are among some five million Syrian refugees who spilled out of Syria into neighboring countries, while millions more are displaced within Syria. Donor countries in Brussels this week pledged fewer funds in Syria aid than last year.

With Lebanon struggling to cope with an economic meltdown that has crushed livelihoods and most public services, its chronically underfunded security forces and typically divided politicians now agree on one thing: Syrians must be sent home.

Employers have been urged to stop hiring Syrians for menial jobs. Municipalities have issued new curfews and have even evicted Syrian tenants, two humanitarian sources told Reuters. At least one township in northern Lebanon has shuttered an informal camp, sending Syrians scattering, the sources said.

Lebanese security forces issued a new directive this month shrinking the number of categories through which Syrians can apply for residency - frightening many who would no longer qualify for legal status and now face possible deportation.

Lebanon has organized voluntary returns for Syrians, through which 300 travelled home in May. But more than 400 have also been summarily deported by the Lebanese army, two humanitarian sources told Reuters, caught in camp raids or at checkpoints set up to identify Syrians without legal residency.

They are automatically driven across the border, refugees and humanitarian workers say, fueling concerns about rights violations, forced military conscription or arbitrary detention.

Mona, who asked to change her name in fear of Lebanese authorities, said her brother was told to register with Syria's army reserves upon his entry. Fearing a similar fate, the rest of the camp's men no longer venture out.

"None of the men can pick up their kids from school, or go to the market to get things for the house. They can't go to any government institutions, or hospital, or court," Mona said.

She must now care for her brother's children, who were not deported, through an informal job she has at a nearby factory. She works at night to evade checkpoints along her commute.

A sign that reads "The return of the displaced is a right and a duty", is placed along a highway in Jounieh, Lebanon May 23, 2024. (Reuters)

'WRONG & NOT SUSTAINABLE'

Lebanon has deported refugees in the past, and political parties have long insisted parts of Syria are safe enough for large-scale refugee returns.

But in April, the killing of a local Lebanese party official blamed on Syrians touched off a concentrated campaign of anti-refugee sentiment.

Hate speech flourished online, with more than 50% of the online conversation about refugees in Lebanon focused on deporting them and another 20% referring to Syrians as an "existential threat," said Lebanese research firm InflueAnswers.

The tensions have extended to international institutions. Lebanon's foreign minister has pressured UNHCR's representative to rescind a request to halt the new restrictions and lawmakers slammed a one billion euro aid package from the European Union as a "bribe" to keep hosting refugees.

"This money that the EU is sending to the Syrians, let them send it to Syria," said Roy Hadchiti, a media representative for the Free Patriotic Movement, speaking at an anti-refugee rally organized by the conservative Christian party.

He, like a growing number of Lebanese, complained that Syrian refugees received more aid than desperate Lebanese. "Go see them in the camps - they have solar panels, while Lebanese can't even afford a private generator subscription," he said.

The UN still considers Syria unsafe for large-scale returns and said rising anti-refugee rhetoric is alarming.

"I am very concerned because it can result in... forced returns, which are both wrong and not sustainable," UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told Reuters.

"I understand the frustrations in host countries - but please don't fuel it further."

Zeina, a Syrian refugee who also asked her name be changed, said her husband's deportation last month left her with no work or legal status in an increasingly hostile Lebanese town.

Returning has its own dangers: her children were born in Lebanon and do not have Syrian ID cards, and her home in Homs province remains in ruins since a 2012 government strike that forced her to flee.

"Even now, when I think of those days, and I think of my parents or anyone else going back, they can't. The house is flattened. What kind of return is that?" she said.