Syria: The Hidden Stories

04 January 2017

Syria: The Hidden Stories

I had been in Syria for months before I received my first security approval to travel to one of Medair’s project sites. Our talented Syrian staff carry out most of our hands-on work, because they are more easily able to access families in need. So when my chance came to travel, I welcomed the opportunity to visit the people living in Artouz and see the impact of our first community water project for myself.

As we drove south from the office, it was striking how rapidly the surroundings changed. The polished multi-storey apartments of Damascus lasted only minutes before giving way to informal housing, illegally occupied by Syrians who are poor or displaced. After stopping for numerous military checkpoints, we arrived in Artouz. 

On the outskirts of Artouz, displaced Syrians are living in unfinished buildings without running water. They walk to collect water from a central point and carry it back to their house, but the supply in town has been limited, and water in open containers can become contaminated and unsafe to drink.

In response, Medair repaired and improved four wells and a large storage tank, and supplied a generator to boost the water supply for the town.  To help the Syrians living in unfinished buildings, we gave 175 vulnerable families water storage kits, including a household water tank.

Rusty barrels that a Syrian family used for drinking water can now be used to water a vegetable garden.

A new tank for safe storage of water for drinking and washing. Medair distributed household water storage kits to 175 families.

One family’s brand new water tank stood in sharp contrast to the two rusty barrels they had previously used to store their water. In one building, I met families who had been sharing a small tank that held enough water for only a two-day supply. Now they combine their Medair tanks to create a central system which provides enough water for the entire building for a full week. Over and over again, I saw the impact such basic items can have on daily life.

Yet I found myself thinking about one man, Illias, who had received the same relief package from Medair, but had more pressing troubles than a water tank could solve.

Ilias is elderly, chronically ill, and disabled. Displaced by conflict, he lives by himself on the second floor of a building that is just a cement block shell. Unable to move without a wheelchair, Ilias is stuck on the second floor of his building. Ilias said he was grateful for the water tank, but instead of using the wood pallets to correctly install it, he dismantled them to make frames to cover the large holes in his wall with blankets.

He was in a lot of pain and had no means of getting to a hospital or calling an ambulance, so we called an ambulance for him. Standing there, I saw how conflict turns lives upside down. He seemed so alone, with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

As we drove back to the office, I wondered how many people like Ilias were hidden behind every unfinished building we passed. I can’t imagine how extreme and life-threatening the winter months will be for them. 

I returned home humbly grateful for everything that I have, but carrying an increased sense of urgency to help those here who are suffering, knowing that the little that we can do leaves a lasting impact. 

Jessica Cope, Medair relief worker

Medair’s humanitarian activities in Syria have tripled in size over the past year, including water projects like this one, support for community health and nutrition, and repairs to primary health care clinics. We are now providing shelter kits for the winter to protect families living in unfinished buildings from the cold weather.

Your gift makes a lasting impact to families struggling to survive the crisis in Syria. Please give today.

Medair’s work in Syria is made possible by the support of European Commission, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation (CH), UN Children’s Fund, World Food Programme, Swiss Solidarity, Czech Development Cooperation in partnership with Caritas Czech Republic, and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarter staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.

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