Syria is Not Safe: What Hope for 3 Generations Without a Home?
Today marks 2,557 days since the start of the war in Syria. People in Need works to ease the suffering of tens of thousands of people in Syria every month.
After seven years of war, it is difficult to keep up with what is happening in Syria. With the creation of “de-escalation zones”, the expansion of Government territory, victories against ISIS and talk of reconstruction, you may be left wondering whether the war in Syria is nearly over. The day-to-day reality on the ground, however, suggests otherwise. People continue to flee for their lives, the bombs continue to fall and the need for humanitarian support is as urgent as ever.
Czech NGO People in Need (PIN) has been delivering aid in North West Syria since 2012. “We have witnessed the bombing of PIN-supported schools, the untimely deaths of our own colleagues and other aid workers, and the need for humanitarian support in the north west exponentially increase,” says Tomas Kocian, PIN’s Regional Director for the Middle East. “From what our colleagues inside Syria see, hear, know and live, I can tell you this war is not over, this war is not won and with every year the suffering increases. People are constantly looking for a safe place,” he adds.
The suffering affects all generations. This is 78 year old Mahmoud, a father of six and grandfather of 23. He and his large family have been displaced five times since 2012. When the war broke out in 2011, he was a successful wheat and barley farmer in Idlib province. Since 2011, opposition groups have taken control of his province and seven years later he remains caught between warring parties, bombarded and without a home. He has lost family members, friends, his house, his land, his income; everything. Mahmoud is not a security threat, he is not to be feared or eyed with caution. He doesn't have a weapon.
The first displacement
“As early as 2012, we had to escape our homes as our village lay close to a military air base. The battles and bombardment left the village almost totally destroyed. Three of my cousins were killed in the airstrikes in 2012. Since 2012, we have settled in many villages always leaving towards a safer village, seeking a better life. We first fled to the south of our village towards a village called Sinjar; this was the first time we had to live in tents because we were unable to rent a home,” says Mahmoud.
The second, third and fourth displacements
This was just the start of their life of displacement. “Because of the terrible living conditions there, the bad security situation and the lack of education opportunities for the grandchildren, we moved again, this time north to rural Saraqeb...Again, we continued to live in tents, enduring the hot summers and cold winters,” Mahmoud recalls. “Later the security situation got worse and my children were no longer able to find work so we moved to the southern countryside of Aleppo. Two months ago, there was an escalation in bombardment and airstrikes and we moved to the western countryside of Aleppo and settled in a camp near Kafr Aleppo village, which was once a jungle. It does not have basic infrastructure including electricity, water networks or sewage systems,” Mahmoud describes.
The fifth and final displacement?
The three generations that make up Mahmoud’s family recently moved their tents for the fifth time. In their current setup, they have no electricity and Mahmoud’s sons are still without a stable source of income.
“We don’t have a kitchen or a bathroom and we have to use public bathrooms. We use the tent to sleep in and my wife cooks outside in front of the tent. My eldest son bought a small tent and we use it sometimes as a kitchen and a bathroom as well,” says Mahmoud. “It is such a loss having to leave your home and village and leave everything behind. I am afraid I might die and will not be able to see my village and home again. The situation is getting more complex every day and things are getting worse,” he adds.
“Every home and every family has a sad story to tell and has faced hard years of suffering and displacement. Now, my hope is that I will live long enough to be able to go back to my village. Recently the frontline moved and it is impossible to get there. I do not know if we'll ever be able to go back to our village,” explains Mahmoud, looking to the road ahead.
The Evolution of Hope
In 2018, as destruction continues and there remains no political solution in sight, it is too soon to talk about reconstruction or people returning to their hometowns. There are millions of people inside Syria desperately in need of humanitarian aid, living like Mahmoud in fear and without basic services. A lot has changed in Syria since 2011. Today's hopes for Syria are not those of March 2011, 2014 or even 2017. Many have seen too much to hope for a ‘normal life’ when the war eventually ends and millions still cannot hope to return safely to their country or hometown anytime soon.
Nevertheless, there is still hope. Today in 2018, there is still hope for a life free from the sound of bombs, a hope that this displacement is the last, a hope for a long-awaited peace. Until that peace comes, one thing, however, will not change. As long as there is violence, fear and generations are made to live in tents without proper access to education, income and food there remains a desperate and ongoing need for humanitarian aid and the provision of basic services.
Facts and figures: People in Need support in northern Syria
- 8,000 families receive daily bread
- 7,000 families receive monthly food parcels
- 7,000 families receive monthly food vouchers
- 5,000 farmers have received vouchers for seeds and tools
- 11,682 children in 24 schools receive education and learning support
- 420 teachers have been trained to deliver psycho-social support and education in emergencies
- 2,500 people are employed by PIN every month to clean debris, rehabilitate roads, repair water infrastructure and power lines or teach and care for children in kindergartens
- 69 PIN projects focus on rehabilitating local water, sewage and waste management systems
PIN’s activities in Syria have been generously supported by donations from the Czech people to the SOS Syria and Iraq campaigns, or through Real Gift and PIN’s Club of Friends. PIN has also received generous funding and support from European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), European Union Development Aid (Europeaid), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the German government through Welthungerhilfe – PIN Alliance2015 partner, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Czech Development Agency and the World Food Programme.
For more information, please contact:
Lukas Laube, People in Need Desk Officer for Syria, +420 733 676 677