The heartbreaking, viral photo of a Syrian toddler holding her hands in the air to surrender has been authenticated by the photographer, revealing the sobering reality of the Syrian crisis.
The image, which has been retweeted more than 11,000 times, is of a 4 year old girl named Hudea who lives in the Atmeh refugee camps in Syria. The child, who was forced to flee her home along with her mother and two siblings, mistook photojournalist Osman Sağırlı's camera lens for a weapon.
As she holds her arms above her small head, an expression of terror is all too evident in the little girl's eyes.
"I realized she was terrified after I took it," Sağırlı told BBC on Monday, "and looked at the picture, because she bit her lips and raised her hands."
"Normally kids run away, hide their faces or smile when they see a camera," he explained, adding that pictures of children in the camps are especially revealing. "You know there are displaced people in the camps," he said. "It makes more sense to see what they have suffered not through adults, but through children. It is the children who reflect the feelings with their innocence."
Over 3.9 million Syrians have been forced to seek refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries due to the four-year old conflict raging within the country. An additional 12.9 million Syrians inside the country are in need life-saving aid as they attempt to survive within the war zone. According to a recent UN report, sixty percent of Syrian refugees are young people. In the Za'atari Refugee Camp alone, which 80,000 Syrians call home, 57% are under age 18, and 20% are under age 5.
Sadly, living conditions for refugees is deteriorating rapidly, and a third of all refugees live in sub-standard housing, with 600,000 refugee children no longer able to attend school, according to a recent report from the UN Refugee Agency.
"With half of all school-aged refugee children and another 2 million in Syria out of school, the number of young people at risk is staggering," UNHCR head António Guterres explained. "They have already lost their childhoods to a terrible war and are now also facing lost futures."
Speaking on Tuesday to a gathering of international donors, Guterres, who is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the Syrian war had reached a dangerous tipping point, with "increasing desperation among refugees and in host communities and a widening gap between humanitarian needs and available funding."
'It is essential that immediate humanitarian needs and longer-term resilience programs are supported from the totality of resources available to donors," Guterres said, according to the report. "Humanitarian assistance budgets are vastly insufficient to meet even the most basic needs, and development actors must step forward to support the longer-term efforts."
Guterres called on the international community for greater support, asserting that neighboring countries hosting refugees see - and the growing fears for their own national security - are making it nearly impossible for Syrians to escape the war.
"Syrians are finding it increasingly difficult to reach safety," he said. "A massive up-scaling of international support to the neighboring countries is vital for preserving the protection space for refugees, regional stability and indeed global peace and security."
This Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the promise that soon, there will be no more war, no more suffering, and no more death. But until that day comes, followers of Christ are called to bring support and hope to those who are suffering (James 2:14-20), and to intercede on behalf of those desperately in need of a Savior (Ephesians 6:18).
To learn how you can support Syrian refugees, click here.