Nearly everyone in Syria has been burdened by the country's three-year long civil war, but young people have paid a particularly steep price, according to a new UNICEF report which notes that 5.5 million Syrian youth have been deprived of schools, food, medical attention, or a safe place to grow up in since the conflict began.
One of the people who put together that report, UNICEF spokeswoman on the Syria crisis, Juliette Touma, told NBC News this week that it was conceived just before Christmas last year in order to shed light on the devastated "lives and hearts and minds" of kids across Syria as well as young refugees who have fled across borders.
"Children do not lie," said Touma. "They do not change the facts. They tell you the way things happened. They tell you what they saw."
"We didn't want to make it a dry report."
Touma said the report, published Tuesday ahead of third anniversary of the Syrian civil war on Saturday, is the "all-inclusive, one-stop-shop" for facts about the more than 5.5 million Syrian kids whose daily lives have been ruptured by violence and chaos.
This week, NBC News is featuring "Forgotten? Syria's Children of War." The live documentary, which began Tuesday and continues Wednesday, follows the lives of Syrian children over 48 hours on NBCNews.com, TODAY, and Nightly News.
Work on the UNICEF report began in late January. It took roughly six weeks to gather the raw material — including scores of interviews with children whose harrowing first-hand accounts and searing memories are featured in the final product.
"We didn't want to make it a dry report," Touma told NBC News from Amman, Jordan, which borders Syria to the south. "We used a number of quotes from children in their own voices."
Thousands of young voices have been silenced by the conflict. As of January 2014, upwards of 10,000 Syrian children had lost their lives to the constant barrage of bombings, gunfire, and other forms of barbarous violence, according to conservative estimates from the United Nations.
The estimated death toll is the highest recorded child casualty rate of any recent conflict in the Middle East.
"This crisis is not centered in one country."
Touma said that although the war has plunged the region into chaos, UNICEF faced relatively little resistance from regime forces during its work on the report. The organization, founded in 1946, is a highly visible "presence" and respected across the region, Touma said.
But producing the report was not without logistical challenges, Touma added. For one, Touma and her colleagues had to cover a large expanse of geography and provide a "holistic" account of a wide-reaching crisis.
"This crisis is not centered in one country, per se," Touma said. It includes in its reach the hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians who have sought refuge in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and other surrounding states.
The report says the conflict has displaced 3 million children inside Syria and forced another 1.2 million children to flee the country as refugees.
But even through the horror of cataloging so much pain in children's lives, Touma did see a bit of a silver lining.
"One thing we noticed in collecting all these stories is the hope that children still have — despite everything that they've seen and everything they've gone through," Touma said. "They are persistent and resilient."