accessibility & help

Syria: Life in a conflict

It is impossible for outsiders to fully comprehend the awfulness of war. Those trapped in a conflict zone can only try to cope with the bewildering changes and sudden destruction of life as it used to be. 

Start with a telling photograph of children kicking a football about amidst the rubble and ruins of their city. What challenges do they face? What sources of help can they rely on?

Learning objectives

By the end of this activity students will be able to:

  • Explain key background facts to the conflict in Syria and describe the kind of everyday activities that might help children and young people cope. 
  • Evaluate different options for accessing improvised practical help and trusted sources of information, particularly related to keeping safe and healthy.

Show the photograph in the PowerPoint and run the multiple-choice quiz  in whatever way best suits the group and the time available.

1. Where is this game of football happening?

a) In Europe, in Scotland.
b) In the Middle East, in Syria. [correct]
c) In Africa, in Sudan.

2. Why are the buildings damaged and the road not in use?

a) It is a war zone. [correct] 

b) There's been a natural disaster. 

c) Economics - lack of money for repairs and maintenance.

3.  How have civilians in the parts of Syria that have seen the fiercest fighting responded?

a) Carried on as normal. 

b) Most are still deciding what to do.
c) Some have fled their homes, some have been trapped and are surviving with great shortage of essentials. [correct]

4. Which of the following is the priority for humanitarian organisations?

a) Finding out who started the conflict.
b) Relieving and putting an end to the suffering of civilians. [correct] 

c) Setting up peace talks between the warring parties.

5. A distinctive emblem is used to mark and protect the medical services of the armed forces and authorised providers of medical and humanitarian assistance in armed conflicts. What is the emblem?

a) A red cross or red crescent. [correct] 

b) A black saltire, or diagonal cross.

c) A blue circle.

Follow up any questions and fruitful areas for discussion. 

Use the following briefing to supply extra information:

The photograph, taken on 26 April 2014, shows children playing football in Aleppo, one of the largest cities in Syria. Before the conflict Aleppo was a famous historic city, much visited by tourists. Many of the residents are now cut off from the outside world. Main roads out of the city are closed or too dangerous. Crossing between government- and opposition-controlled areas isn't possible.

It is hard for people to get access to health and medical care, food and other essentials. Electricity shortages mean access to clean water is limited. There have been many civilian casualties and widespread damage to buildings they depend on.

Discuss students' thoughts. Then look again at the photograph. 

What might the players be thinking about? Would the new challenges of daily life affect the players' thinking and enjoyment of the game? Or would they just be absorbed in the game, like anyone else their age?

Children play football beside Al-Sakhour frontline in Aleppo 26 April 2014© Info

Clarify students' interpretation of the picture by writing a heading or caption for it, as if for a newspaper. Ask students to devise a sentence that says something about the photograph using at least two of the words or phrases below:

  • normal life

  • adversity

  • hope 

  • resilience 

  • stress

  • relieving tension 

  • boredom

  • physical activity

  • energy

  • distraction 

  • fear

Broken bone

Imagine one of the footballers stumbled and broke a bone. In the UK, the first aid response is to support the injury, prevent unnecessary movement and call 999.  

What might the children in the photo use to support a broken limb? 

In Aleppo, with no ambulance available, the children would probably have to try and to find someone who could improvise and help them.

Ask students to consider how their actions might change if they knew they didn’t have easy access to medical services and supplies? What would they do if there was an emergency? Who would they go to for help?

Suggest they make their own private note, including how they could contact them.

Judging safety

In war everything changes. Places that were once safe to go no longer are. But how do you know? Who can you trust? 

Ask students to put the following possible sources of information in order of the most reliable:

  • YouTube videos
  • Social networking sites 
  • Local radio or television
  • International radio or television
  • Humanitarian organisations working locally
  • The military that control where you are now
  • The military that control where you need to pass through
  • Friends and family in the local area
  • Friends and family outside the local area

Ask them to add their own ideas as well.

Emotional health

Discuss obvious supplies that might be hard for those in conflict zones to access: medicines for chronic conditions, painkillers for the injured, equipment for everyday health events such as pregnancy and childbirth. 

Those are mainly about physical health. What about mental and emotional health? What might children and young people be lacking that would help them stay safe, healthy and enjoy life?

Invite students working in groups to devise and refine a list of the top five services, equipment or facilities that might help teenagers living in a war zone.


This resource was written by PJ White of alt62 and published in May 2014. 


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