Searching For Family In Idleb City, Syria

*Muhamad

Save the Children Aid Worker

Idleb, Syria

April 2, 2015

It was Friday evening when I got the call. My family inside Idleb city wanted me to help them get out, to escape the fighting and airstrikes. It was two days before I was finally able to get there and in that time I could not speak to them as all the lines were down. I didn’t sleep those two nights. Sunday morning I was in a car with two of my friends, all of us searching for our families who we had lost contact with, going back to our home city that we had not seen for more than two years.

The journey to Idleb felt so long because we were so silent thinking about how the city would look. We held our breath as we crossed deserted check points. We were three grown men in a car with eyes full of tears shouting, “We are here; we are inside our city; we are finally here.”

Syria_blog

(Photo not from Idleb)

All around were destroyed tanks and cars, holes gaping in the sides of the buildings. After a few streets we drove past the main fuel station that had been destroyed by an airstrike. Then we reached a hospital in the city center that was still on fire after having been hit by an airstrike; it was here that those caught in the latest fighting were brought, the injured and the dead.

Finally I arrived at my street. With teary eyes, I jumped the stairs and knocked at my door full of happiness. ‘Open the door, it is me, I am back!’ But there is no response. Sitting on the stairs I feel hopeless wondering, ‘Where are they? Are they safe? Is Lara my niece crying and waiting for me to come back as I always promised I would?’

Disappointed with myself for being late, I struggle down the stairs. As I reach the street, I see three dead bodies left on the pavement in front of my house.

Driving around the city in an attempt to find my family I stop at a number of schools that now stand abandoned although you can still see the children’s drawings attached to the fence. I met three teachers I knew who were very concerned about their relatives and their students. A teacher said to me with a sigh, ‘Do you know Mohammed R? His child is a student in my class. Their house was destroyed by an airstrike yesterday night; I don’t know what happen to them. I hope they are alive.’

As we stood watching a group of children in the street, another of the teachers said, ‘Poor children, they have lost everything. They lost their happiness, their education, and their dreams! Who is going to help them.’ He did not know that I am now working for Save the Children.

I kept driving and saw the fear on the faces of people staring up at the sky and a few minutes later, I heard a big explosion close by. Driving away, I saw a family of three adults and five children squeezing themselves into a small car. All the children were crying and a woman was saying to a girl of about seven and a boy of about five, ‘My dears don’t cry, the aircraft is far from us.’ Once they were in the car they left, one of the many families fleeing the city for somewhere a little bit safer. Moving out the city are trucks and cars filled with people, searching for somewhere to stay. Many are moving in with extended family members, into collective shelters, others into makeshift camps on farmland in the hope of safety that in Syria is always so elusive.

Most of the services in the city have stopped, although a few shops are open and some organisations are providing emergency food and other help. One of my friends is a doctor, and he said that because there is no electricity throughout the city he is worried about the vaccines stored in the medical stores. Another friend’s sisters told me that the government building where all the students’ records are stored is in an area where there is frequent shelling and airstrikes. If these are lost, what happens to those children’s futures?

Since the fighting in Idleb started over two weeks ago all children have stopped school and amongst the thousands of people who have already fled Idleb are many teachers. My sister is one of these. She is worried about how and when she will be able to start her work again. All these teachers need a way to support their families and are now looking for other sources of income. Education is so important to people in Idleb, and before this latest fighting attendance at the schools in the city was very high – at odds with much of the rest of the country. Education is what parents tell me is one of their major concerns for their children. But with teachers and families dispersing, schools filling up with displaced families, or even targeted in the fights, where will these children go and who will teach them.

Finally after driving through my city for hours, I go back to my house hoping that my family might be there. They weren’t but a neighbor tells me that they managed to leave the city and are now in a town two hours away. I have still not seen my niece Lara, my sister or the rest of my family but at least I know that for now they are safe.

* is a pseudonym

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“Nothing for the winter”: Syrian refugees already feeling the cold in Egypt

Meg-Pruce

 

Meg Pruce, Information and Communications Officer

Save the Children, Egypt Emergency Response

November 15, 2013

 


This week has been the first time I have felt the cold since arriving in Egypt six weeks ago. My morning walk to work now feels noticeably autumnal – however much the palm trees along the way might make you think otherwise. Thankfully my ‘just in case’ attitude to packing means I have a nice warm jumper I can put on during the chillier nights. From my conversations with Syrian refugee families and children, however, it is clear that many of them do not have this luxury.

 

Ali_Meg_Pruce_Blog_Syria

Ali*, aged three, takes a look at the adult and baby winter blankets being distributed by Save the Children and local partner staff

“We thought that we would only stay three months, and we came in the summer so we didn’t bring any thick clothes”, Osman* tells me during my visit to one of Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces, where Syrian refugee children can play and share their experiences in a safe environment. Osman is thirteen years old and lives in an underprivileged area of Greater Cairo. His family came with enough savings to stay temporarily, but as the conflict in Syria drags on, this money has now dried up and Osman’s family remains displaced. He tells me that it started getting cold two weeks ago, and what they really need are heaters for their home. Even with his two brothers working, however, the family are struggling to pay the rent – leaving little money for the winter items they need.

 

Osman’s story is echoed by Rana*, aged twelve, who I meet in another area of Cairo where many Syrian refugees have settled. Last winter, Rana’s family simply stayed inside as much as they could. This year, they remain unprepared for the upcoming colder months. Describing her current home, Rana tells me “there is nothing for the winter”. All they brought from Syria were some blankets, she says. Neither of her parents work, so they cannot afford to buy warmer clothes for Rana and her brothers and sisters. Rana explains that their Syrian neighbours are having similar problems: they arrived without anything for winter – not expecting Egypt to be cold – and have no money to buy what they need. 

 

Kids_Meg_Pruce_Blog_Syria

Syrian children receiving their blankets from Save the Children. Save the Children are distributing adult and baby blankets to 1865 vulnerable Syrian refugees to help protect them during Egypt’s colder winter months.

Save the Children has already distributed adult and baby winter blankets in the two areas I visited, helping to protect 1865 vulnerable Syria refugees against the cold. While people’s situations are similar, it was also made clear to me that each family has specific needs depending on their circumstances, which is why we are tailoring our plans to provide freedom of choice. We are looking into using a flexible voucher system so that people can buy the non-food items (NFIs) which best suit their family. This way, whether it is a room heater, carpets or cosy clothes that people need, they can decide for themselves.

 

After hearing the children’s experiences, it gets me thinking about winter in Egypt. The country certainly doesn’t have a reputation for needing to wrap up warm, and the winters are a lot milder than in many countries within the Syrian region. However, handling the colder months is all about preparation and having the right resources. Not knowing how long they will stay for when they flee their country, many refugees simply do not have a choice.

 

*Names have been changed to protect identity

 

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Syria Crisis: In Their Own Words





Katie_Seaborne

Katie Seaborne

Save the Children

October 18, 2013


Samira and Mohammed are currently living in a
refugee camp in northern Iraq. Mohammed arrived with
his mother during the massive refugee influx in the days after the border
opened on August 15th. Samira and their son, Ali, joined a month
later.

Samira and Mohammed are very concerned about the upcoming winter months
as they have no warm clothes and their tent is flimsy and not able to protect
them from the elements.

 I spoke with them in their small tent in the camp. They had few belongings – just a few mats on the floor and some blankets. 

Samira: There are three of us who live in this tent- me, my
husband and our son. Our son is only one year old and is still learning to walk. I
come from Syria and I arrived here about a month ago. The situation here is so
difficult – even though there is a war in Syria, we can’t stay here. If the
rain and the cold starts we will have to return. We came with no warm clothes
or anything – we still haven’t received anything to help us. I don’t have any
warm clothes for my son – I worry he will fall sick.

Blog_SavetheChildren_Samira_Mohammed

Samira, Mohammed and their son Ali
Photo Credit: Save the Children

Mohammed: The tent is not built to be strong – it won’t
withstand the cold or the storms. If the rain falls, the water will come inside.
There are tears in our tent and the water will drip through.

Samira: Our house in Syria was great – it was very
comfortable. There were four rooms – not like this one-room tent. We did
struggle last winter in Syria – I was pregnant and the my son was born on January 1st – right in the middle of winter.

Mohammed: There was no oil for heating and so I had to chop
up wood from the trees around our house to keep us warm but it wasn’t enough. Our
son often got colds. We know what winter can be like, but last time we had a
nice house. If we stay here, we don’t know how we will cope. If the rains come,
the tent may just collapse. We are already getting cold at night. When I first
arrived in August, we had no tent for a week so we slept outside. It was quite
cold during the night then – it is now much colder than it was then. We do have
a gas heater but only a very little amount of gas left and we can’t afford to
buy anymore.

Samira: We left Syria with nothing – just the clothes we
wear here. We didn’t bring any winter clothes as we arrived during the summer
months and had no time to plan. In the evenings we close up the tent and turn
on the gas heater using the little gas we have left.

Mohammed: The tent is really our biggest problem, it won’t
keep us warm. We know it’s going to get muddy here and our child won’t be able
to play outside anymore. We really haven’t prepared for the winter months as we
have no money to buy anything and we arrived with nothing. We think it’s going
to be colder here than it was in Syria as well, because this is a mountainous
region. We chat to our neighbors about the upcoming winter all the time – we
know we will suffer a lot.

Save the Children will be distributing
winter items to refugees in camp and non-camp settings in the region in the coming
weeks. This will include winter clothes for adults and children, blankets and heaters.  

Click here to donate to support our work for Syria's Children

Syria: Sami’s Story



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Cat Carter, Head of Humanitarian Information & Communications

Save the Children UK

October 16, 2013


 

I
first met Sami*, 12, in a Save the Children supported school in Lebanon. His
quick smile and easy manner meant he quickly endeared himself to the staff
there, and the visiting Save the Children research team, of which I was
one. 

Sami

He
invited us back to his home, to meet his mother and siblings. We checked with
our security team – this area of Lebanon is considered ‘high risk’ due to
frequent clashes and car bombs, so all staff movement is monitored closely. We
received clearance and set off, moving slowly through busy marketplace. We
pulled up to Sami’s home – it’s a small garage.

After
multiple greetings were completed, we slipped off our shoes and sat on the cold
concrete floor to chat. Slowly, we pieced together Sami’s story.

“I
came from Syria one month ago….”. He paused, and looks intently at the wall,
wondering how to explain what life was like in Syria for him and his siblings.
Finally he shrugged and said simply “the situation was black and difficult.”

His
mother Amira* steps in to continue the story. Prior to their arrival in
Lebanon, Sami’s family moved around, leaving their urban hometown when the
conflict intensified – at one point snipers were targeting people trying to
fetch food and water – and arrived in a rural village, where they thought they
would be safe. That village subsequently came under attack, and the whole
family were trapped there for a full month, unable to leave and unable to get
supplies in. Food became very scarce. When the shelling and shooting began each
day, most villagers ran to a cave for shelter, but it was far from Sami's*
house, so instead they climbed into a large sewage pipe nearby.

At
their lowest point the family were surviving on one cucumber and some tomatoes
each. “The worst time was three days at the end when we were surrounded. We
slept hungry – my brother and sisters and I. Shelling was happening at the same
time.  There was no gas, so when we had a little flour my mother tried to
make some bread burning plastic bags and paper for fuel.”

It
is a bleak picture and Amira* shakes her head sadly. She explains to us that
she is deeply ashamed of their situation in Lebanon, and likened their life in
Syria to the situation facing Somalia in the height of the famine in 2011,
recalling that she watched with pity as Somali mothers were interviewed on
television to raise money for humanitarian aid. She said that she was now in
the same situation.

I
explained that it wasn’t just money we wanted from the world – we were also
pushing for unfettered humanitarian access into Syria, so that Save the
Children and other aid agencies could deliver life-saving food, water and
medicine to those who needed it the most. Amira just smiled sadly and gently
asked us to stay to eat a little food with them. We played with the children,
taking it in turns to blow up brightly coloured balloons and release them,
desperately trying to catch them, and failing every time. Before long I was
breathless with laughter but when I said goodbye to Sami and Amira, I left
their home with a profound sense of sadness.  Amira simply didn’t believe
it was possible to get humanitarian aid into Syria in any meaningful way. She
didn’t think it was possible, that those trapped in heavy conflict zones inside
Syria were beyond help.

I
want to prove her wrong.

*all names have been changed to protect identities

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“They know that word. They know cold”




Anonymous

Simine Alam, Regional Information and Communication Manager

Syria Response

October 8, 2013


“My brothers are getting cold, too. My two youngest brothers
can’t

say many words yet, but now when they get cold, they say that
word:“cold”. They know that word. They know cold.” – Rami*,
11 years old, a Syrian refugee living in Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan

Blog_Jordan_cold

The approximately 120,000 Syrian refugees who live in Za’atari Refugee Camp in North Jordan are going to face extremely tough weather conditions this year. PHOTO: Simine Alam/ Save the Children

 

I
roll up the window to prevent the cold air from coming into the car, as I drive
back from Za’atari Refugee Camp in Northern Jordan to Amman with my colleagues
from Save the Children, who work in the camp every day to provide essential
services for children and their families. As the nutrition counselors exchange
stories about their day with the school counselors, I reflect on the fact that
it’s getting colder every day in Jordan, and this winter has been predicted to
be the most harsh winter in the region, since 100 years ago. This means that the
weather conditions are going to feel even more harsh for the millions of
displaced Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and Syria. This
winter, more than 4 million Syrian children who have been forced to leave their
homes due to the dangers caused by war, are going to be freezing cold.

 

When
I tell people I live in the Middle East, often the first reaction is ‘it must
be so hot there!’ A lot of people associate the desert with intense dry heat
and so it is hard to comprehend that Za’atari, a sprawling tented city in the
desert, home to approximately 120,000 Syrian refugees, is going to face
freezing weather conditions and torrential rainfall this winter. Last winter
Za’atari flooded, and we saw images in the media of Syrian refugees bailing
water and mud out of tents with plates, bowls and brooms. Around 500 tents were
destroyed due to being flooded or blown away with the wind.  

 

This
year the camp has doubled in size. The first thing that strikes you as you
enter Za’atari is the number of children. Children make up more than half of
the camp’s population. In spite of the great efforts various organizations,
including Save the Children, have gone to, to ensure that the children in
Za’atari are enrolled in one of the three schools in the camp or participating
in the activities provided by youth centres, you still see children running
around barefoot, pushing wheelbarrows, playing in the rocky outcrops and sand
in the camp. I wonder if the barefoot children I saw running around today, will
have shoes this winter to keep their little feet warm. Or if the tents I see,
already flapping around in the wind now will be strong enough to protect families
from the heavy rain and wind which are on their way.

 

Blog_Jordan_cold._1jpg

One of the things that really strikes you as soon as you enter Za’atari Refugee Camp is the number of children. At least half of the 120,000 Syrian refugees there are children. PHOTO: Simine Alam/ Save the Children

 

I
can’t bear the thought of going to sleep cold, and waking up cold and being
cold day after day after day. But then I don’t live in a tent or an unfinished
building, exposed to bitter wind, rainfall and even snow, and so I know I have
to keep things in perspective this winter. Save the Children is going to great
efforts for ‘winterisation’ this season – that is, ensuring that Syrian
refugees and displaced people in the region are well equipped to deal with the
freezing weather conditions in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Based on
our experience in distributing items last winter, we have carefully designed a
set of winter items for families, including both children and adults’ clothing,
blankets and rugs. We are also distributing household kits which include
materials for families to improve their shelters. In Syria we are targeting
newly displaced families with our distribution of materials, as these are the
most vulnerable families. It is essential to get these items out as soon as
possible. As every day passes, it’s getting colder and colder.

 

These
are some examples of how a small amount can go a very long way:

  • USD
    11 could buy a pair of shoes to protect someone from the bitter winter
  • USD
    13 provides a warm blanket for a child
  • USD
    14 could buy an insulated jacket to protect someone from the bitter winter 
  • USD
    52 will cover the cost of a school bag and a set of winter clothes to protect a
    child from the cold, including track suits, a winter jacket, gloves, a scarf, a
    winter hat, a pair of shoes and a set of underwear.
  • USD
    100 could buy a set of winter clothes, including jackets, winter hats, socks
    and footwear for a refugee family of 5
  • USD
    160 will provide a ‘quick-fix kit to a family of 4 in Lebanon, enabling them to
    weatherproof their self-built shelters. This includes plastic sheeting,
    transparent sheets, wood and galvanized nails.
  •  USD 250 could buy a winter kit for a family of
    five, including warm winter coats, scarves, hats and warm boots for adults,
    insulation for tents and house floors, plastic sheeting to protect shelter from
    the Winter elements and rope.
  • USD
    300 will cover the cost of running a household of 4 people throughout the
    winter period, including heating, fuel, winter clothes and winter boots for the
    family.

 

Read Save the Children's report Hunger in a War Zone

Donate to help Syria's Children

 

 


* Name has been changed to
protect the identity of the child 

Infant and Young Child Feeding Program in Za’atari Refugee Camp


Save the Children’s Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Program has been running in Za’atari Refugee Camp, home to over 130,000 Syrian refugees in north Jordan, since December 2012. The program provides assistance to children under the age of five, in addition to pregnant and lactating women. 

Breastfeeding in an emergency is the safest way to protect children from an increased risk of infection and from becoming malnourished. With the right support and assistance, mothers can continue to breastfeed fully, even when malnourished, in order to give their children the best chance of survival.  In an emergency setting, access to hygienic facilities to sterilize bottles and prepare infant formula, appropriate and timely health services, safe storage of water and privacy to breastfeed can be limited, impacting on the nutritional status of infants if an intervention is not provided.

The IYCF Program has set up 3 caravans in the camp, which provide a safe and private place for mothers to breastfeed their children. Women who come to the caravan are provided with biscuits and water, and both mothers and fathers are given awareness-raising sessions on breastfeeding by Save the Children’s specialists. 

SCJordan_HalimaZada  is a 25-year-old mother to four children. She arrived at Za’atari Camp three months ago, where she lives in a small caravan with her four children. When she arrived at Za’atari, her youngest daughter, Alaa, was five months old. Zada breastfed her for the first month and a half of her life, but she then switched to infant formula because she felt too stressed out by the dangerous situation in her home town in Syria. 

“When Save the Children Jordan’s counsellor first visited my family, my baby was 5 months old, and I was very frustrated and easily irritated. The counsellor explained the benefits of breast milk and the dangers of infant formula preparation, particularly in the environment at the camp. We also talked about the possibility of relactation, and I agreed to try it by putting Alaa on my breast whenever possible, especially at night. I was taught the correct positioning and attachment pattern, I started drinking more fluids and agreed to start using the cup instead of the bottle, due to inaccessibility to clean water and hygiene conditions, until my milk flow returned.

One week later, the counsellor and I started decreasing the amount of infant formula I was giving to Alaa, whilst monitoring her weight and urination. Within a month my baby was fully satisfied from breast milk. I feel so much better now that I am breast feeding, and I know that this is a bit accomplishment for me and the best thing I can offer my child under the circumstances.”

 _______________________

Read Save the Children's report Hunger in a War Zone

Donate to help Syria's Children

 

Jordan: ”Taking pictures allowed him to see beautiful things in the camp”



Francine-blog-headFrancine Uenuma, Director Media Relations and
Communications

Jordan

September 2013


Home to 130,000 people and
counting, Za’atari refugee camp is a massive, sprawling sea of tents, “caravan”
like structures serving as home, all of it blanketed in a thick coat of dust.
It’s hard to distinguish one row from another, but dotting the landscape are a
few playgrounds, brightly painted murals on the side of child-friendly spaces, kindergartens,
and a soccer pitch where teenage boys can break from daily life in the camp –
especially rough for the teens and children here who find themselves at loose
ends – for a series of drills from instructors.

One of these safe spaces is Save the Children’s multi-activity
center for teen girls, where they are learning a series of skills from language
lessons to making crafts. Today they are making soap – a mountain of glycerine,
olive oil, a propane burner, gloves covered in dyes. Saba*, 16, tells us, “when
I go back to Syria, I will teach other girls this and maybe start my own
business.”

In another room, photojournalist Agnes Montanari, who is a
consultant with Save the Children, is listening intently to a radio broadcast.
The reporter behind it is a teenager, who has gone out into the camp and
interviewed two families about a problem they are having with their sewage. The
trucks don’t come by often enough, they tell her, so they have had to dig holes
and dispose of it. They are concerned that their children may fall in, about
the health concerns this poses. The reporter then follows up with staff from an
organization at the camp that helps with disposal of sewage, including the
interview in her broadcast.

Agnes_mon_syria

It’s a refreshing sight – a story that’s been told about
refugees many times, this time being reported by a young refugee. Montanari has
a similar project for photography, where teens can take photos to document
their experiences and environment. She says she came here hoping to help teens
find a new perspective – helping them tell their own story and shaping the
narrative around their experience.

“Using a camera is like having new eyes to see everyday
things in a different way. Instead of being victims, they become actors again.
One of my students, at the end of the first three months said that taking
pictures had allowed him to see beautiful things in the camp,” she says.  “The other important aspect of the class…was
allowing the students to express themselves, not only to talk about their life
in Syria but also about their hopes and dreams, and becoming a photographer, a
photojournalist has become, for some of them, a goal.”

She says learning these skills has also helped them to
become more focused and better articulate their thoughts.

It’s critically important to maintain these spaces within
Za’atari – to give children and teens a safe and comfortable environment to
learn skills, make new friends, and find new ways to cope with the new future
they now face.

 

Read Save the Children's report Hunger in a War Zone

Donate to help Syria's Children

 

Jordan: “We get to be happy”



Francine-blog-headFrancine Uenuma, Director Media Relations and
Communications

Jordan

September 2013


Since Syrians began fleeing their homes two and a half years
ago, we have seen countless images of large camps, tents comprising our images
of families forced to flee their homes in Syria. But here in Jordan – home to
the largest of these camps, Za’atari, which has 130,000 people – many more are
urban refugees, scattered in host communities and struggling to get the
services they need.

We recently visited a child-friendly space in Amman, where
Save the Children is connecting with this hard-to-reach segment of the refugee
population. We saw a bright, cheerful space tucked into a neighborhood in the
older eastern part of the city, where children have adorned the walls with
drawings and crafts. In this room 29 children – and 3 adults, comprised of Save
the Children staff and Syrian volunteers – help children express themselves and
play in a non-threatening environment.

 

Shireena_Francine_blog_Jordan_Spet_2013We spoke to to 10-year-old Shireena*, who is in Amman with
her mother and siblings. Her father has been missing for more than a year.
Shireena has been out of school for two years, and like many children who are
unable to attend school, the child-friendly space is her only structured
activity. “We get to be happy,” she says. “We draw and we play…we sing and tell
stories.” Despite being unable to attend school, she tells us she wants to grow
up to be a doctor because “if something happens to you or someone close to you,
you can help them.”

 

As we prepare to leave, the teacher tells us someone wants
to speak to us. Zeina*, 8, is shy and quiet – she speaks so softly we can
barely hear her. The first thing she says is that she is worried about her
father. She saw him after he was shot in both legs and crippled – a horrifying
image for anyone, much less a child, to witness. “I’m very concerned for my
father because we often can’t reach him,” she says, her expression conveying
the sadness and worry that she carries with her. Here at the child-friendly
space, she likes to draw her old neighborhood, to be able to express her
memories of a home she still misses.

Reaching children like Shireena and Zeina  – as well as their families (the center also
holds sessions for parents and helps connect them to much-needed services) – is
Save the Children’s priority in this crisis, and critically important in urban
areas like this. Buses provide transportation, as many parents cannot afford
it, and bring children to the center. Parents have told teachers that they see
a positive change in their children’s behavior – less aggression, more
friendliness – as a result of their time here.

 

Despite the
encouraging signs from this child-friendly space, the number of children spread
across cities who do not have access to programs like this is too high. Like
Shireena and Zeina, those children need support and assistance to cope with the
new reality of their childhoods.


Shireena_drawing_Francine_blog_Jordan_Sept_2013

 

Read Save the Children’s report Hunger in a War Zone

Donate to help Syria’s Children

 

Cash for Work: A Lifeline for Syrian Refugees



Carter_blog_Syria_headshot

Cat Carter, Head of Humanitarian Information & Communications

Save the Children UK

September 24, 2013


Father of three Ahmad grins at
me from inside his tent. It’s a wide, toothy grin and I’m immediately charmed.
We shake hands and he invites us inside, settling us down on the floor with a
blanket before insisting we take coffee. It’s Ramadan, and I’m keenly aware that
it must be hard for fasting Muslims to watch as others drink (those observing
Ramadan don’t eat or drink anything all day, until sundown), but he insists and
eventually simply brings out a pot of coffee and pours it for us. He sits down
to explain why they eventually left Syria, after more than two years of
conflict.

“We
were surviving only day-to-day, and if I missed even one day of working because
of the fighting, I could not afford the food for my family. And that is what
happened in the end, the fighting meant we could not work, and food was too
expensive. We borrowed some money to pay for a little food, but that soon ran
out. We could not afford to survive – there was no life for us left in Syria.”

Ahmad
pauses for a moment, remembering Syria. We wait silently, sipping our hot,
strong coffee.

He
looks at his children and continues softly “it is the worst feeling as a
father, being unable to give your children food – worse even than the bullets
and shells.”

 

Carter_blog_Syria

Now
in Lebanon, it’s still a struggle, but things are a little better for Ahmad.
He’s been working with Save the Children’s Cash for Work programme, which
involved him cleaning up the camp. He was paid in cash (better than payment
with food vouchers because it gives the family the option to buy exactly what
they need). He used the cash for water and food for the whole family, and tells
me it lasted a long time. His gratitude is evident, but I’m embarrassed to
receive it – as a compromise I promise to pass on the thanks to the Save the
Children Cash for Work team responsible for setting up the project.

 

We
talk more generally about the situation in Syria, and what Ahmad thinks will
happen next. Working in the field, you’re often told to avoid contentious
topics like politics and religion.. But Ahmad isn’t interested in siding with
the opposition or the government.

 

He
shakes his head sadly at me and tell me that this whole war “is a war on
children – food, water, shells – they all kill the children first”. He tells me
that he just wants peace, so he can take his children home. 

 

Read Save the Children's report Hunger in a War Zone

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The Decision to Escape Syria


Anonymous man

Hedinn Halldorsson, Emergency Communication Manager

Jordan

September 11, 2013



Two reasons. That is what most of the refugees give me
when I ask them why they decided to flee and take on a perilous journey. One, security
and the simple fear for their lives and their families. Secondly, Syria is a
country in ruins. With its eroded infrastructure, simply getting by, finding
water and bread, has become nearly impossible for many.

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Photo Credit: Save the Children/Hedinn Halldorsson

So in the end, the refugees don't have a choice. That's
the calculus. A question of life and death. They risk their lives by staying,
and they risk their lives by fleeing and embarking on a long journey, with no specific
destination other than “safety.” "We walked during the night and slept in
the daytime", says a pregnant mother of three who walked 60 miles in 5
days. "I was so afraid someone would attack us from the bushes".

The option of fleeing, if everything goes well, offers
refuge a distant light at the end of tunnel. That is why one in three Syrians
is now on the run, either internally displaced within the Syrian borders or in
a neighboring country, having left everything they once knew and loved.

There is no sign of the violence to cease, on the
contrary. And those bearing the brunt are ordinary people. The needs are
biggest in the plagued country itself, where humanitarian access is greatly
limited. Nonetheless, Save the Children has, since the onset of the crisis,
more than 900 days ago, reached hundreds of thousands in Syria, under extremely
difficult conditions.

Save the Children has for months demanded unhindered
humanitarian access, something we don't have today. Operating without
limitations in Syria would mean that we could reach those most in need. And
secondly, the burden of Syria's neighboring countries, already hosting more
than two million refugees, could be eased.

Syria has become the great tragedy of this century,
says the head of the UNHCR, "with suffering and displacement unparalleled
in recent history". According to the UN, the fighting has been so intense
that the number of refugees has risen tenfold in a single year.

When you know how enormous the needs are and how dire
the situation of millions of people are as these lines are being typed, it is
difficult to get your head around the fact that the emergency response of an
organization like Save the Children, whose simple aim is to meet basic needs of
children and ensure they stay alive, is only 40% funded.

Some months ago, Jordan had the biggest numbers of
refugees, but today it is Lebanon. One in ten inhabitants of Jordan are Syrian,
one in five inhabitants of Lebanon. Most of the two million people that have
sought refuge and safety and neighboring countries live in ramshackle homes,
temporary shelters, vacant housing.

The demographics of the region have changed for good,
on such an epic scale that no one could have predicted. And what is worrying,
is that the exodus is bound to grow in coming days.

Numbers have a tendency of losing their power the
bigger they get. That is the case of more than one million Syrian children that
have fled to a neighboring country. One million of them, in a dire need of
humanitarian assistance. I've met Aya, aged seven, who said she would dance
when there was shooting outside, "Cause I don't like to be afraid",
she explains.

No one says it, during my interviews with the refugees,
but many do realize that it could be months and years before they will be able
to return to a country that was once called Syria. And those I talk to, are in
different stages of grieving everything they have lost and left behind and
might never see again. Family, home, a country. The conflict has unleashed an unimaginable
tide of suffering, and continues to do so.

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