Five years ago, civil war erupted in Syria displacing thousands of families and their children. Now, it's the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world with nearly five million people living as refugees in neighbouring countries. In Lebanon, the total population affected by the Syria crisis is 3.2 million people and 1.2 million of them are children and young people.
"It is important to contribute to more social cohesion between Syrian refugees and the host community, which also aligns with EU policy to provide better settlement provisions in safe countries in the region," says the Dutch Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Mark Rutte,
By partnering with UNICEF, War Child and the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) and through funding from the Dutch government, we're helping create unity through the Sport and Humanitarian Assistance (SaHA) program in Beirut. The pilot project uses games of soccer to bring children and young people from Lebanon's different communities together.
The Dutch Prime Minister joined Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister of Trade and Development; Kevin Frey, the CEO of Right To Play; Karijn Akkerman, the National Director of Right To Play Netherlands; and Nicolien Sauerbreij, Olympic Gold Medalist in snowboarding and an Athlete Ambassador for Right To Play Netherlands, in the capital city earlier this week to watch an animated game of soccer.
"At today's event, we saw Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese children playing together," says Frey. "The current crisis has made the situation in Lebanon very difficult for both the host communities and migrants, especially children. Today's activities taught children the importance of protecting each other and co-operating regardless of where they come from. It was a great day for all involved."
Currently, approximately 2,500 children are engaged in the program, while more than 100 youth peers have been specially trained to use each soccer game as a teaching tool to learn about teamwork, social cohesion and cooperation. And while playing is at the core of the program so is psycho-social support, capacity-building of caregivers and community leaders and the creation of youth committees to raise awareness on child protection issues.