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In the sweltering triple-digit temperatures around Raqqa in north-central Syria, children leap from a railing into an irrigation canal to cool off. While Syrian Democratic Forces battle Islamic State militants in Raqqa, children outside the besieged city are finding their own fun.
The International Committee of the Red Cross recently was able to enter a nearby town, Tabqa, for the first time in years after Syrian militias pushed out ISIS fighters. The aid organization said repairing Tabqa dam was a “priority,” not only for water but for the electricity it generates.
READ MORE: Column: Why I can’t stop thinking about the children of Syria
Syria’s seven-year civil war has displaced 6.3 million people within the country and forced 5 million people to escape to other countries.
The temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit in August. Photo by Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
Syria is now the world’s biggest producer of internally displaced people and refugees. Photo by Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
Though there are still large numbers of displaced people, Syrians in some parts of the country are returning home. More than 600,000 have returned since the beginning of 2017, mostly to Aleppo in northern Syria, according to the International Organization for Migration and its local partners.
Most returnees said they wanted to protect their property and felt the economic situation was better than where they were staying, the IOM reported.
READ MORE: Syrians try to salvage life from the wreckage of Raqqa
Andrej Mahecic, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said it was too early to say whether de-escalation zones or Geneva peace talks were motivating the uptick in returns, and that people should still be careful about the security situation.
Students play at a school in Douma, near Damascus, Syria on Aug. 16. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
Children play inside an inflatable castle during Eid al-Fitr celebration in the rebel-held Douma neighborhood of Damascus in June. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
Students play volleyball at a school in Douma. A ceasefire was declared in southwestern Syria in July. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
Students ride a miniature train at a school in Douma, near Damascus. About half of the Syrian population is either displaced within the country or in other countries. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
About 1.75 million children in Syria are no longer in school, according to UNICEF. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
READ MORE: You asked: Are Syrian children getting the help they need?
Larisa Epatko produced multimedia web features and broadcast reports with a focus on foreign affairs for the PBS NewsHour. She has reported in places such as Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Haiti, Sudan, Western Sahara, Guantanamo Bay, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Turkey, Germany and Ireland.
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