Helping Improve Muhannad's Self-Esteem

Throughout his life, 10-year-old Muhannad had struggled with his self-confidence. He felt isolated and struggled to interact with others. Then he met our European Union-supported mobile medical team.

The crisis in Syria has had a profound impact on the population, leading to an estimated 16.7 million people requiring humanitarian assistance in 2024. Thirteen years of conflict have left a high proportion of the population displaced and lacking access to basic services such as healthcare and clean water. About 90% of Syrians currently live in poverty.

Amid this crisis, Syrian children are especially vulnerable. Nearly half of children aged 5–17 are out of school. They are at risk of being forced into child labor, getting recruited into the fighting, or early and forced marriage. In 2021, UNICEF reported that one-third of children in Syria showed signs of psychological distress, including anxiety, sadness and fatigue.

Throughout his life, 10-year-old Muhannad had struggled with his self-confidence. Living in Dara’a governorate in southwest Syria—a region that has seen extensive fighting—his upbringing was difficult.

Muhannad went to school but had difficulties learning, especially in Arabic classes, so he was put in a lower grade than children his own age. His parents were worried about his lack of progress at school and frequently criticised him, saying that he was incapable of learning.

As a result, Muhannad’s self-esteem suffered. He felt isolated and struggled to interact with others. Unable to express his emotions in any other way, he sometimes acted aggressively toward other people.

With the support of the European Union, International Medical Corps uses mobile medical teams to reach Syrians in a wide geographical area and provide care and assistance for people who need it.

The mobile team met Muhannad in his small town, Deir al-Bakht. Recognising that Muhannad needed help, they enrolled him in regular structured child-protection activities. These group activities help teach children skills while boosting their self-esteem, enabling them to face their fears and problems.

At first, Muhannad was reluctant to participate in the activities. He isolated himself from the other children and refused to participate because he was afraid of making mistakes. One day, after leaving the session, he threw stones at the other children and acted aggressively toward the facilitator.

However, the psychosocial support worker never gave up on Muhannad, and developed an intervention plan to help improve his self-confidence by boosting his communication skills.

As part of the plan, the psychosocial support worker wanted to better integrate Muhannad into the group. They talked positively about Muhannad in front of the whole group, praising his achievements to reinforce his good behaviour. The worker also encouraged interactions between Muhannad and the other children to make him feel more involved in the activities.

As Muhannad finally made friends with this peers, his confidence and communication skills improved and he started to feel more comfortable. The child protection team kept a close eye on Muhannad to track his progress and even helped him do his homework. With encouragement and attention, he started to come out of his shell more. He even started enjoying the work and doing it independently.

Today, Muhannad is always eager to come to the sessions. He has a more positive manner and seems content and cheerful. Instead of dreading his Arabic lessons, he now looks forward to learning.