In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, about 5,000 displaced Syrians now live in a tent settlement called Fayda Camp. For two days, Associated Press photographer Jerome Delay and NBC News producer Yuka Tachibana visited the camp and shared these portraits and stories of the war’s youngest survivors.
Shahd, 2, walks in a field near the Fayda Camp. She fled Homs, Syria, with her mother when she was a year old. Her mother Khatara said, "How can Shahd be happy when most of the children around her here aren't happy?" In Syria, the family had their own house, and Shahd had her own bedroom. "Now, there's nothing other than this tent for my six daughters and one son," Khatara said.
Mohamed, 9, is from Haleb, Syria. He and his seven brothers and parents arrived at the camp two months ago. "I used to watch bombs fall from the sky," says Mohammed. He misses his house very much and wants to go back to Syria.
Iman, 8, fled Hallab, Syria, near Idlib five months ago with her three brothers and two sisters. She lives with her parents and six others in a 20 x 20 foot tent. She said her family had to leave Syria because it was dangerous and there was not much to eat. She goes to school at the camp and enjoys playing with her friends, but wants to go home to Syria soon. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
Ranim, 6, and her family came to Lebanon from Hallab, Syria, in February. Ranim's father said there was no food, the security situation was very bad, and there was no work for him as a construction worker. Her father said his four children could no longer go to school due to the fighting in the neighborhood. "At least here in Lebanon, the children are safe and they can go to school," he said.
Mahmood, 12, and his family -- seven brothers and one sister -- came to the camp a year ago. He works at an auto workshop 6 days a week from 8 am to 4 pm, earning about $30 a week. It takes Mahmood an hour each way to walk to work every day. His younger brother, Ahmed, 11, works at the same workshop, and brings back $12 a week. Mahmood doesn't want to miss out on his education, so when he gets back to the camp, he goes to afternoon school. He doesn't want to work but his father doesn't have a job, so he says he has no choice.
Islam, 8, fled the town of Batha, Syria, with her brothers. She can't remember exactly when she came to the camp in Lebanon but said: "I love Syria much, much more than here — I miss everything , my school, my friends, my house."
Fatima, 12, right, is hugged by Maria Assi, the director of the Lebanese non-governmental organization "Beyond." Fatima, who is from Idlib, Syria, came to the camp a year ago with her mother. Her father died before the war. Two months ago, when a major winter storm hit the Bekaa Valley, temperatures became dangerously frigid for tent dwellers with no heat, like Fatima and her mother. Fatima's mother died. Fatima now lives with her half-brother but would like to live with Assi, who supports the refugees at the camp and has been giving Fatima extra love and care. Fatima now calls Maria "mama."
Ola, 8, arrived with her family just 13 days ago from Idlib, Syria. Ola says she was hungry because food was expensive and her parents could not afford enough. There was no school because of the fighting, and one day her house was bombed. Luckily no one was home. Ola loves to draw.
Aryam, 8, fled Idlib, Syria, in a bus six months ago with her mother, five brothers and a sister. During the more than 12-hour journey, there was shooting and violence along the way. Before the war, Aryam used to enjoy playing with her friends, but now she won't leave her mother's side. She won't sleep without her and even refuses to go to school. Her mother is the only security she knows. Aryam has an older brother who stayed behind in Syria, "I miss him very much," she said.
Adham, 10, plays on a roof in Fayda Camp. Unlike his 8-year-old sister Aryam, Adham loves to go to school. He likes it so much that he goes to the morning school, comes home for lunch, then returns to the afternoon school, which is meant for children who work during the day and can only attend evening classes. When the family lived in Idlib, Syria, Adham's school was bombed, so he couldn't attend class.
Yammama, 4, is held by a relative in the Fayda Camp. She and three sisters fled Homs, Syria, two years ago with their mother, who didn't want the children to grow up in a war zone. Yammama's father still works in Syria.
Roqya, 8, sits in her bed in the Fayda Camp, where she shares a tent with her mother and four siblings. Roqya’s father is missing, and her mother tells the children every day that he will be coming from Syria very soon.
Fahda, 6, hangs on to her mother. Ever since two mortars landed on her house in Syria, she is terrified of loud noises. Although she is now safe from the fighting, Fahda said, "I hate the sound of doors banging shut, and thunder." She rarely leaves her mother's side.
Abdel Qarim, 8, escaped Homs, Syria, a year ago with his mother, four sisters and an older brother after his father was killed. "I remember my dad so well because he always played with me because I was the youngest," Abdel said. His emotional scars were compounded when one day, he and his friends came across what his mother calls the site of a massacre. "I was on my way home from school," said Abdel, a nervous child who often rubs his hands over his thighs. "I remember seeing lots of people crying and shouting. Everyone looked very upset."
Rawaa, 10, at left, came to Fayda Camp nine months ago from Homs with her mother, three sisters and three brothers. While still in Syria, Rawaa's eye was damaged when a bomb exploded nearby. "I was playing with my friends and suddenly there was an explosion," she said. The injury has scarred her pupil, which has taken on a shade of blue, leaving her with two different eye colors. She also has recurrent nightmares. Rawaa hasn't seen her father since they left Syria, and her mother Doha has not told the children that she has had not heard from him . "I don't know what to tell them," she said. "They have gone through enough already."
Bader, 14, is from Homs, Syria. One day more than a year ago, he went out to buy bread for his family when his foot was hit by a sniper bullet. Bader still can't put weight on his injured foot. "I miss playing soccer, and all I can do is watch my friends play," says Bader. He dreams of going back to his family's big house and garden in Syria. However, a month after the family arrived in Lebanon, the house was shelled and completely destroyed. "It's all gone now," Bader said. He wants to be a lawyer when he grows up.
Rawan, 10, collects water in the Fayda Camp. She came with her family from Idlib, Syria, one year ago. Rawan doesn't want to return home, saying that she saw things in the war that she cannot erase from her memory. "One day I looked up in the sky and saw helicopters dropping bombs. It was terrifying. Then I saw a dog eating human skin," she said.
Firas, 9, center left, and his friend Id, 14, center right, arrived a year ago from Homs, Syria, with their families. Firas, who has six brothers and two sisters, said he is happy to be away from the violence in Syria and likes to go to school at the camp. Id's favorite subject is reading. "I want to go back to my house and not live in a tent," says Id. His family, six boys, two girls and their parents, rely on the eldest brother who works in the nearby town of Zahle.
Ali, 13, was walking with his mother in Homs, Syria, two years ago when suddenly there was an explosion. His right foot was badly injured. Ali said, "When the explosion happened, my foot became very hot. I started to cry because I was in so much pain." Now Ali can't run or play with the other boys. He has frequent nightmares. "They are scary dreams where everything goes black. It's hard to describe, but it wakes me up in the night."
Ali says the camp is better than Syria -- there are no bombs. He loves to go to school where his favorite subject is reading Arabic. But he misses his father who stayed behind in Syria. "If I could have one wish, that would be to see my father," he said.
Sedra, 7, center, stands in her tent in the Fayda Camp, some 25 miles east of Beirut. She and her 3-year-old sister Gena fled a Damascus suburb with their parents 15 days ago after a bomb exploded near their home while they were sleeping. "Three of my uncles and three of my cousins died in the attack. I used to play with them all the time,” said Sedra , who lost a younger brother three years ago to gunfire. “I really don't want to go back to Syria. I prefer to stay at this camp," she said.
Ali, 13, and his family were driving near Idlib, Syria, two years ago when suddenly their car came under gunfire. A bullet went through Ali's hand and hit his younger brother Mohamed in the head. Mohamed died in Ali's arms. A month after the shooting, the family fled across the border to Lebanon.
Mohamed's mother Khatara said the kids have not been the same since Mohamed's death. Ali still has pain in his hand, and while he can't remember much about the incident, his mother says he has become hyperactive and difficult to discipline. At the same time, Ali is the sole breadwinner for the family. He works six days a week as a car mechanic, walking an hour to the garage each way. "If God were to grant me one wish, I want to go back to Syria," he said.
Nofa, 14, is Ali's sister. She was so devastated by the shooting death of her younger brother Mohamed that she wanted to get away from her family. She married a cousin, but the marriage didn't last, so she returned home. Now she doesn't go to school -- instead she helps her mother look after the younger siblings. "Before war started in Syria, I used to go to school, and I was top in my class," she said. "I was very good at Arabic literature."
Gamal, 5, walks in the Fayda Camp where he and his family fled two years ago from their neighborhood in Idlib, Syria, which was under frequent attack. Each time bombs dropped nearby, Gamal cried. He still frequently wakes up in the middle of the night shouting. His father Khaled said all he wants for Gamal is happiness and a good life.
Fatima, 12, sits on the bed in the tent she shares with her mother, two brothers and two sisters in Fayda Camp, a Syrian refugee settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Four months ago, Fatima and her family fled here from their home in Homs, Syria, after her father disappeared while searching for bread for the family. "I think about him all the time,” Fatima said of her father. “He brought us happiness. He brought us food. He made us safe. If I can have one wish come true, that would be to have my father here with us."
-- Interviews by Yuka Tachibana, NBC News