Syria war, eight years on: The children who know nothing but conflict

March 15 will go down in New Zealand history as the date of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

The date has a tragic meaning for millions of Syrians too: it marks the day their civil war began in 2011.

Habiba and Mohammad are eight-year-old Syrian refugees who have grown up knowing nothing but war. For their entire lives, conflict has raged on in their home country.

They're children, but they understand exactly what's happening.

"I feel sad and I feel scared because instead of hearing good news I hear that the risks and the fear are increasing," said Habiba.

As children do, they play through difficult times; kids pointing fingers at each other in the shape of guns - this is their version of paper, scissors, rock.

Habiba tells me the Syria she remembers is beautiful, and shares her message for those still at war.

"I would say please stop; you are making me very sad and scared for my country. I hear that the war is about to end, and that never happens," she said.

"I would also tell them to stop the war," Mohammad add. "You are ruining our country and breaking our hearts."

The eight-year-old children I've spoken to in Syria are a stark symbol of how long this war has dragged on. Their entire lives - all they've ever known - is this conflict.

And the next children we meet are an example of the consequences of that war. While they may have found safety, survival is an on-going battle.

From 10am until 10pm, Hussein sells packets of tissues on the street. He's 11 years-old.

"When I first arrived here in Lebanon I used to go to school, but I had to stop because my parents didn't have enough money to enrol me," he said.

Hussein is a Syrian refugee - one of nine siblings who escaped the fighting in Aleppo. Each day he earns between $15 and $20, which he gives to his parents.

 "I get really tired, and when I get hungry I ask the people on the street for some food so I can eat."

Where Hussein lives, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, 76 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line. Almost all - 96 percent - rely on measures like child labour to survive.

All of these children are victims of child labour, gathered together by World Vision for a regular support group. Here they share their dreams.

Hussein says he "would love to be a doctor" so he "can help his family when they get sick". But as the war now enters its ninth year, it's unlikely he'll get even a basic education.

If you'd like to support the work World Vision is doing to help these children and other Syrian refugees in Lebanon, click here.


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