Syria's civil war looms large in the fears of children who have fled the country and are now living as refugees in the neighbouring nations of Jordan and Lebanon with "war and violence" and "losing family" among their greatest fears, according to the findings of a new survey.

A report released by World Vision to mark eight years since the start of the civil war in Syria contains the results of surveys of Syrian children living as refugees and their peers around the world. It found that 42 per cent of the Syrian children said they were fearful of "war and violence" and 19 per cent were fearful of "losing family". Other fears they had - such as planes flying overhead or the lights going out - could also be "strong associated with the conflict", the report says.

Syrian girl

Batoul, age 15, is among those Syrian children featured in the report. PICTURE: Courtesy of World Vision Australia.

 

"I have a dream and I really truly hope it will come true. I need the world to encourage us to follow our dreams.
I want to make my dream come true, and you can make whatever you want come true."

- Batoul, 15.

The results from Syrian children were almost identical to those seen in a similar survey in 2017.

Marc-Andre Hensel, World Vision’s Syria response director, said the children are "haunted by their experiences in Syria". 

"Many have been born outside of Syria and are growing up hearing stories of war and destruction back home,” he said. “It’s why many of these children told us they don’t want to return home any time soon.”

While the survey found that the fears of Syrian refugee children were similar to those of children living in countries that have not experienced war - in Switzerland, for example, 60 per cent of children were fearful of war and violence, in Japan the figure was 48 per cent, in Ireland 54 per cent and in Australia 36 per cent - World Vision says the fears of the Syrian children were "much more imminent".

The survey also found that 83 per cent of Syrian refugee children dreamed of a "good education".

"For Syrian children, their wishes predominantly focused on their education and the conflict in Syria, often in a way that was linked, for instance, to wanting to become a doctor to treat people in Syria, or wanting Syria to become peaceful and to go back and open a bakery," the report noted.

As well as calling for an end to the conflict in Syria, World Vision are urging the international community to take greater action to protect children still in Syria as well as for protection from forced returns for those children and their families who have fled and are now living as refugees outside the country. They are also calling for children's basic needs to be meet, especially educational and psychological needs, and for access for humanitarian organisations inside Syria.

While the survey data for children in Jordan and Lebanon - where about 100 children were polled in each country - was gathered in 2019, some of the data from other nations was also gathered in 2017.