Cash, food, and sanitation: Ensuring the basics for Syria’s displaced

Cash, food, and sanitation: Ensuring the basics for Syria’s displaced

Mar 9, 2020

Khairo and his family left home one day in 2013 and have moved five times since then. They’ve never returned, and with every relocation, their home gets farther away.

The first time Khairo’s family fled fighting in southern Idlib they found safety nearby. “We erected a tent a few kilometers from the village,” says Khairo, noting that “the village center was being shelled often and our home was on the main street, so it was targeted a lot. We did not expect to have to flee far, or for long.”

“Then, all of a sudden, there was a new offensive and we didn’t even have time to go back to our home and take our things, like furniture.” These days, they live in a camp for internally displaced people, and even the basics are hard to come by.

Before their exodus, Khairo earned a living by farming, and during his displacement he has often tried to put these skills to work to feed his wife and the seven children who live with them. But with nearly one million Syrians on the move in the country’s northwest, it has been difficult for Khairo to make ends meet. To help, People in Need (PIN) provided the family with a food kit funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace

“It is good support and contains canned food that we use for breakfast and lunch, food that would cost us so much money,” Khairo says. 

Khairo’s family is not alone in needing aid. In the western countryside of Idlib, five families with more than 30 children crowd into a four-room unfinished home, a makeshift shelter that provided refuge when fighting escalated in the southern part of the province. With few tarpaulins and blankets to protect them from the elements, these families are trying to stay as warm as possible to survive the bitter winter.

When they arrived a few months ago, neighbors offered assistance. Recently, each of the families received a cash grant from PIN, funded by United States Agency for International Development’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance, which enabled them to buy basics such as bread, clothes, and wood for heating.

“There was heavy shelling along the highway and in the village, so we had to flee,” recalls Afif, 45, one of the fathers living in the group. “We left in our small truck and I spent two days evacuating the families. When we first left, I expected to return…we lost everything.”

Before being forced to flee, Afif worked in a brick manufacturing plant. “I made a good income, and even after the revolution started, I managed to keep my job. But then I lost my work – and my village.”

To ease the suffering of displaced Syrians, and to enhance our emergency response efforts, PIN teams have been doing needs assessments in coordination with local authorities in rural Idlib. Data from these surveys shows that most families are in need of humanitarian aid due to the ongoing conflict. Unconditional cash grants, which are awarded based on specific criteria, are among the most impactful options for displaced families.

In early December, PIN initiated an emergency response to assist families fleeing the escalating violence in northwest Syria. Since then, we have distributed 6,300 ready-to-eat rations, 7,509 cash grants, and 3,300 hygiene kits in the governorates of Aleppo and Idlib.

Despite ongoing challenges, PIN remains committed to providing assistance to displaced people in northern Syria. In the coming weeks, we are planning to deliver additional humanitarian aid to thousands more, including 13,000 new cash grants, 9,100 ready-to-eat rations, and 8,000 hygiene kits.

Author: Omar Khattab and Nina Tramullas, People in Need