Illustration Captures the Syrian Conflict's Effect on Children

A photo of a 5-year-old sitting in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria, has caught the world's attention. Omaran Daqneesh was one of five children hospitalized on Wednesday after an airstrike hit the rebel-held city — it's unclear if the attack was carried out by the Syrian government or its Russian allies.


The stirring image of a child covered in dust and blood spread quickly on social media. It came as a sobering reminder of the five-year conflict in Syria, which has claimed the lives of more than 470,000 people, including thousands of children, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research.

Nobody can be sure why this photo generated so much attention — after all, "images of dead and injured children from Syria are shared daily on social media, many of them indescribably more harrowing," The New York Times reports — but it's prompting comparisons to another viral image from the Syrian conflict.

Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old who was pictured face-down on the shore in Greece last year, died as his family attempted to flee the war-torn country. As one cartoonist pointed out, Alan's photo represents a common fate for children who attempt to leave Syria; Omaran's photo, meanwhile, represents what happens when you stay.

An estimated 11 million people have fled Syria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with an additional 6.6 million (including more than one million children) who are internally displaced in the country. In the face of ongoing conflict, "the notion of a normal childhood has all but disappeared for the young bystanders of war," PBS reports.

What started as a popular uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 has transformed into an all-out civil war in Syria, with government forces controlling a majority of territory in the country today. Rebel groups, the Islamic State, and Kurdish forces control smaller regions in Syria, which are being targeted by the Assad government and several allies, including Turkey and Russia.

"Several rounds of peace talks have failed to stop the fighting," Al Jazeera reports. Although a ceasefire announced in February 2016 has limited fighting in some parts of Syria, recent government airstrikes in Aleppo have prompted uncertainty about the ceasefire's future."

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