As a psychological counselor in Syria, Taghreed Baaj has worked with children from across the country who are trying desperately to recover from the horrors they've witnessed since the civil war began six years ago.
One child who stands out is Nagham, now in a refugee camp for orphans, who at age 6 lost her entire family when a bomb hit her house. She then wouldn't eat, and was scared of anyone who came too close. "What affects children the most is losing one of their parents or siblings," Baaj, who works with the Syrian charity Shafak, told ABC News. "It gives children a mental shock. Inside Syria, children generally suffer from lack of education and lack of good nutrition."
On Tuesday, Save the Children released a new report about the number of Syrian children experiencing "toxic stress," brought on by extended periods of extreme violence and trauma. They interviewed 458 kids, teens, and adults across Syria, and found that nearly half of the adults have met or know children who developed speech impediments or no longer speak, and half of the kids who were able to attend school regularly said they rarely or never felt safe there. Save the Children also learned that some children are taking drugs like opium to cope, and some kids as young as 12 have attempted suicide.
At least 3 million Syrian children under the age of 6 have known only war, and something needs to be done so they aren't left with lifelong scars. "If the generation of children who are going to have to rebuild their country aren't equipped to do that and they don't have the tools, then the country remains devastated even after the conflict is over," Misty Buswell of Save the Children told ABC News. "We have to make sure that the level of violence directed at children isn't the new normal and recognize that it is children who are suffering the most."