Life on the move, Syria: “The winter is coming soon.”

Published: Nov 29, 2019 Reading time: 3 minutes
Life on the move, Syria: “The winter is coming soon.”
© Foto: People in Need

Leaving everything behind to flee is a nightmare most families simply cannot imagine. But the ongoing conflict in Syria means that an average of 4,000 people experience this every day. 

For many, it is not even the first time.

Basha originally fled her home five years ago, when she was just 35, travelling with her seven children and extended family. They have had to move four more times since then, each departure a process of upheaval and loss.

Their latest stop has been an informal camp on a stark mountainside northern Idlib, which lacks even the most basic infrastructure. There is no running water, no nearby shop, no roads, no electricity—nothing which would make it recognisable as a home. The shared latrines have been hurriedly built by hand from clay and stones. There is nowhere for children to attend school.

“Everything has changed,” Basha told us. 

The isolated position of this camp means that families are cut off from essential services. “It is most difficult when someone is sick at night and you cannot take him to the doctor,” Basha explained. Every illness her children experience is also an additional financial worry. “Even buying bread is a burden,” she said. “Also I feel worried as the winter is coming soon and the tent does not protect us well from the rain and wind.” 

It is to some of these most isolated and desperate camps that People in Need staff travel each day, to meet and assist newly-displaced families. As temperatures drop, this assistance becomes even more crucial.

But it is impossible not to be struck on these visits by the resilience many people show, despite what they have been through. Near Basha’s tent, a man has started levelling the rocky hillside ground to erect a tent for his family. Most of these people were farmers before they had to flee their lands.

“In the village we used to plant our land with barely and lentils,” Basha told us. It was not an easy life, but they could support themselves.

The help that People in Need and other organisations provide is also an important lifeline for families like Basha’s. Along with 3,299 other households since March, she received a cash grant to buy basic food and hygiene items. An estimate eighteen thousand men, women and children have been helped through these grants, thanks to support from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance

Not far off while we speak to Basha, some children are playing with marbles on the clay. It is in these small gestures—breaking ground, making dinner, playing together—that family life continues, even here.

Basha’s own wish is simple: to one day no longer be forced to live like this, far from her own village and land.

“I hope we will live in peace and return home,” she says. “I wish everyone might return to their homes.”

Every day, UN figures show that thousands of people in Syria are still forced to flee their homes because of the conflict. People in Need provides cash grants and other immediate forms of support to help vulnerable families through this upheaval. Bashar’s family received their cash grant thanks to the generous support of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

Learn more about our work in Syria here, or click here to make a donation.

Autor: Riona Judge McCormack and Omar Khattab, People in Need

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