A safe haven for children

For children trapped under siege, playing outdoors is not an option.

In November 2016, in the midst of escalating fighting across the Syrian Arab Republic, children are doing whatever they can to live normal childhoods. The Land of Childhood, a playground theme park created by linking a series of basements together, offers children — and their parents — the relative safety that they so desperately seek, just to play.

© UNICEF/UN041513/Alshami

(Centre) Adbulaziz, 10, who lost his father in the war, crosses a tunnel that connects two basements together at the Land of Childhood.

“My mom doesn’t allow me to play in the street […] but when she learnt that this place is underground she lets me come here to play”.
© UNICEF/UN041516/Alshami

In the Syrian Arab Republic, people have been living under siege for years in some areas, with few safe places left in which children can play. Two children look through a show window inside the Land of Childhood, an underground playground in a besieged area.

© UNICEF/UN041517/Alshami

Over a period of two years, a group of young volunteers connected two basements via a tunnel and created the Land of Childhood, where children can have fun and move without fear of attack. Children play on the train and in the plastic house at the playground.

© UNICEF/UN041515/Alshami

Two girls play at the underground playground.

“My friends and I come here because it’s the last park that is still working […] the one we used to go to was attacked and is not working anymore,” one of the children said.
© UNICEF/UN041523/Alshami

A child plays in the ball court at the Land of Childhood. The playground receives up to 400 children a day during holiday periods. One of the creators, Yaseen, was a 4th year architecture student when the siege forced him to leave university a year before graduation.

© UNICEF/UN041520/Alshami
“Designing this project was a relief from the war photojournalism I did during the war. I wanted to retrieve my old skills as an architect to produce something that brings happiness to children,” Yaseen explained.

Children ride on a ferris wheel at the Land of Childhood.

© UNICEF/UN041520/Alshami
“I played on most of the games available here,” Massa, 7, who came from a nearby town to play at the ‘Land of Childhood’ underground playground, said “I wasn’t afraid of bombardment because my dad told me that we’re in the basement.”
© UNICEF/UN041524/Alshami

Children wait in line for candyfloss at the Land of Childhood. There are 6 million Syrian children in need of humanitarian assistance, including some 2.8 million displaced and up to 2 million in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 500,000 living in areas under siege.