All his life, Ayman*, 5, has known nothing but war. A war, with its deafeningly loud noises, that left the raven-haired boy who loves football, completely silent.

He was born at a military hospital in 2011 when the Syrian war began. In normal times, babies are lulled to sleep, but these were not normal times. According to his mother Rana*, newborn Ayman was roused relentlessly by the terrifying noises all around him. She recalls that even from an early age, Ayman was altered more by the war than his two older two-year-old twin brothers.

“(Ayman) couldn’t sleep because of the air strikes and noises,” his mother said. “We all were scared, we couldn’t sleep. Ayman kept on crying all night.”

And lacking the proper nutrition from food shortages in the city, his mother was not able to produce enough breastmilk to feed and comfort Ayman, like she did for her older sons.

As the war entered year two, Ayman also turned two. His father, fearing for his children’s safety, had Ayman and his brothers play indoors. He still wanted his children to have a childhood, so he taught Ayman to play his favorite sport, football, inside – tile floors instead of grass, walls instead of a pitch.

But life in a war zone took a more devastating toll on the boy. Ayman did not speak. Ayman’s parents believe it was due to what he saw and heard in their besieged city in Syria – armed men breaking down doors, dead bodies lying in the street and sirens going off…