Nightly News   |  November 30, 2013

Lasting damage of civil war on Syrian youth

More than a million Syrian children have become refugees due to civil war. NBC’s Aymen Mohyeldin reports.

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>>> there is damaging a generation of children. the latist numbers explain why. more than a million children are refugees. three-quarters of them under 12. almost 400,000 of them have wound up in lebanon . for many as nbc's ayman mohyeldin tells us, childhood is becoming a thing of the past.

>> reporter: it's early morning but these children aren't going to school. they are syrian refugees headed to farm fields in lebanon . cold and underdressed, a fire is all that keeps them warm until their work day begins. hours on their feet, painstakingly lifting and dumping bucketloads of vegetables. they are now the breadwinners for their family of nine. we had no choice, maria says. we don't have proper blankets or canned food . once schoolkids, they are now child laborers. they don't have places for us to go to school here. eight organizations are trying to help, but life in lebanon is hard for the young refugees. some looked at first like kids at summer camp -- dancing, drawing, singing. but behind the smiles lies sm s something darker. this boy, sometimes playful can be visibly aggressive. a symptom of a civil war he and his family escaped only to find themselves living in this makeshift tent. a few pots and pans the only reminder of home. it is a hard existence says his father. he has a broken back and struggles to walk. so it is up to ibrahim and his brother to make the daily trek for water. nearly 200 refugee families live in this tent city , one of at least 1400 such camps across lebanon . families make shelters with whatever scraps they can find. no running water , no sanitation, no electricity. at the tent city here health workers treat a stream of children, many suffering skin diseases and malnutrition.

>> some are scared. they are not able to speak. they cry at night. all they can do is scream because they are scared what may happen.

>> reporter: for now aid workers face an uphill battle trying to give the children a childhood they were forced to leave behind. ayman mohyeldin, nbc news, lebanon .