Three of the men had been trying to get jobs, but for months none have been hired. The only one in the family to find work was the grandmother's thirteen-year-old son. He brings in $25 per week by working from 8:30am to 8pm, six days a week. A local doctor who is providing free services diagnosed him with tonsillitis, and he has chronic asthma. When his family tried to get him medicine and an appointment at a hospital they were turned away because they were not registered with the government, even though they were registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency. 

Later, we met another family from Homs who were recovering from bullet wounds they sustained while trying to flee the city. A 12-year-old boy lay in one bed, having been shot in the leg by Syrian soldiers. His mother lay across from him, recovering from being hit in the foot. Her husband, however, was not in the room: he had been shot in the head and lost a substantial part of his brain function. The mother and child told us their stories because they wanted the world to know what was happening to the Syrian people. It was devastating.

We then met others recovering from bullet, shrapnel, and mine wounds. More than one had lost a limb, and more than one was a child.

As the world argues over whether and how to protect the Syrian people from their own government, the killing and maiming continues. Without a doubt, the military is not limiting its offensive to just the opposition – or to men, or even adults. The elderly and young seem also to be considered fair game.

But the families we met were, in a way, the lucky ones: they got out. Because of landmines and snipers placed along the border, many more are locked inside Syria and cannot escape. That is why the international community must immediately dispatch – and the Syrian government must allow – impartial humanitarian assistance. Relief organizations are willing to enter Syria to treat the wounded despite the dangers, and they should be permitted to do so. 

Whatever their political positions, all parties should agree that allowing medical staff to do their work is vital, and that humanitarian space should never be a political bargaining chip.

Reynolds is the statelessness program manager for Refugees International, a Washington DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding.