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'Don't give up on Syria's kids'

Interview: Sarah BerningMarch 12, 2015

A new report entitled "Failing Syria" has lamented Syrians' plight and lambasted the international community for failing to stop the fighting. The situation is particularly dire for children, explains Misty Buswell.

Save the Children
Image: Save the Children

Misty Buswell is the regional advocacy and media and communications director at Save the Children. Her organization is active helping Syrian refugees in host communities in the region such as in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and in Iraq, as well as inside Syria.

DW: The situation for Syrians seems to be quite overwhelming. Do you have any hope for them?

Misty Buswell: It is very overwhelming and it does feel very complicated. But I think at the end of the day, what we all should be able to agree on is that getting humanitarian aid to women and children and men who are in need should not be complicated and difficult. That is something we should all be able to agree on as an international community, as a very basic thing. And I think there are a lot of difficult issues that are coming out of this conflict. And it's hard sometimes I think to still be hopeful. But we work with children inside Syria - children who have fled and become refugees in neighboring countries - and despite everything that they've witnessed and that they've been through, they're so resilient and they still smile and they still learn and they still want to go to school. I think we have a responsibility to keep that hope alive and not give up hope. Because they haven't, so how can we?

Porträt - Misty Buswell
Misty BuswellImage: privat

Is it so much about getting help to people trapped between all of the different conflicts inside Syria or is it now more about getting help to the refugees who are stuck in overpopulated camps in neighboring countries and Europe?

Well, I think that there's a responsibility to do both. Certainly we have access to people who have fled the conflict much easier than we do to who are still inside Syria and who are still living in areas where there is conflict going on. But the parties to the conflict do have a responsibility to allow humanitarian aid to get to those who need it, to ensure that civilians and children are protected, that the civilian infrastructure isn't targeted. So I think that much more needs to be done to hold the parties accountable to those obligations that happen through international humanitarian law.

The crisis has been going on for such a long time and it seems that there are more and more insurgent groups fighting each other. Surely it is difficult to hold these groups to international humanitarian law, or any kind of law for that matter. How does the international community need to react to hold these people accountable?

It is very difficult, but civilians do have a right to humanitarian assistance, regardless of where they're living and what party is in control of that territory. And the Security Council is responsible for implementing its resolutions and for putting pressure on the parties to allow aid in. And there are groups, bodies, that do have influence with parties to the conflict and so they just need to be consistently reminded that they have to uphold these obligations despite how difficult it may be.

According to the Failing Syria report, one in four schools have been closed in Syria. And there are many children affected and among the refugees. What is your organization doing for these children?

Despite all the difficulties, we are able to provide education inside Syria. We support schools in Syria and we work with teachers and communities to find ways to ensure that children still do have access to education. So we are quite concerned about attacks on schools and reports of children dying in schools. Over 160 children were killed in their schools last year. And so we need to ensure that schools do become safe places again. And that children aren't afraid to go to school and that families aren't afraid to send them, which is the situation that we have now.

How do you see the situation developing in the short and long run?

Well, that's the million-dollar question, I guess. I do think that it is critical that we do look toward the long term and that we are focusing on children and on education and intervention that will enable the next generation of children to have the tools that they need to help rebuild their society. I think when it comes down to it, the only way that the suffering and the misery in Syria is going to end is through an end to the violence and that's why also there needs to be more pressure on parties to the conflict to agree to a negotiated political solution and an end to the violence.

Save the Children
Save the Children has set up schools for children who would otherwise not have access to educationImage: Save the Children

Yet a political solution doesn't seem to be working. Will the situation have to get worse before it improves?

That's a tough one. How much worse can it get? We always say that I guess and it does seem to get worse. 2014 seems like it was one of the worst years of this conflict so far. But more focus, there needs to be much more focus on the need for a political solution and this is where the international community has a big role to play because there seem to be very few voices in the international community calling for peace and a negotiated settlement. But the silent majority of Syrians want an end to the violence. So that's why we feel that this has to be a priority for the international community.

Interview conducted by Sarah Berning.