Middle East

As bombs rained down on Aleppo, this Syrian father helped his daughter face her fear with laughter

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Daily airstrikes and bombs prompted Syrian father Abdullah Mohammad to come up with a new way to help his three-year-old daughter Salwa adapt to the sounds of war.

A Syrian man who is facing the brutal reality of warfare is turning the confronting circumstances into a game to mentally protect his young daughter.

Abdullah Mohammad has taken the unusual approach after he and his family were forced to flee their Saraqib home in the eastern countryside of Idlib.

With the Syrian civil war proving a real threat to their livelihood, they now reside at a friend's home in the town of Sarmada. However, near-constant explosions and danger are an ongoing reality.

Abdullah Mohammad is using laughter to distract his young daughter from the horrors of war.
Abdullah Mohammad is using laughter to distract his young daughter from the horrors of war.
Supplied/Abdullah Mohammad

In a bid to protect his daughter Salwa from the psychological scars left on countless Syrian children, Mr Mohammad is using humour to take the horror out of the sound of war.

Now, whenever a bomb falls in their province, Mr Mohammad and his three-year-old laugh and pretend the noise is a firework or play gun.

"I decided to teach Salwa this game to prevent her psychological state from collapsing. So as to not be affected by diseases relating to fear," the father told Sky News UK.

"She is a child who does not understand war."

900,000 people displaced

A Russian-backed regime offensive in northwest Syria has displaced 900,000 people since the start of December, and babies are dying of cold because aid camps are full, the UN said Monday.

That figure is 100,000 more than the United Nations had previously recorded.

"The crisis in northwest Syria has reached a horrifying new level," said Mark Lowcock, the UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.

Smoke from Syrian government forces shelling is pictured over Khan al-Asal in the Rashideen al-Rabea area in Syria's Aleppo province.
Smoke from Syrian government forces shelling is pictured over Khan al-Asal in the Rashideen al-Rabea area in Syria's Aleppo province.

He said the displaced were overwhelmingly women and children who are "traumatised and forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures because camps are full. Mothers burn plastic to keep children warm. Babies and small children are dying because of the cold."

The Idlib region, including parts of neighbouring Aleppo province, is home to some three million people, half of them already displaced from other parts of the country.

The offensive that began late last year has caused the biggest single displacement of people since the conflict began in 2011. The war has killed more than 380,000 people since it erupted almost nine years ago, following the brutal repression of popular demonstrations demanding regime change.

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence inspect debris and rubble as they search for survivors at a destroyed hospital in the town of Darret Ezza.
Members of the Syrian Civil Defence inspect debris and rubble as they search for survivors at a destroyed hospital in the town of Darret Ezza.
AFP

Mr Lowcock warned Monday that the violence in the northwest was "indiscriminate."

"Health facilities, schools, residential areas, mosques and markets have been hit. Schools are suspended, many health facilities have closed. There is a serious risk of disease outbreaks. Basic infrastructure is falling apart," he said in a statement.

"We are now receiving reports that settlements for displaced people are being hit, resulting in deaths, injuries and further displacement."

He said that a massive relief operation underway from the Turkish border is has been overwhelmed.

"The equipment and facilities being used by aid workers are being damaged. Humanitarian workers themselves are being displaced and killed," he said.

US President Donald Trump on Sunday called for Russia to end its support for the Syrian regime's "atrocities" in the Idlib region, the White House said.

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