A truck filled with mattresses, blankets, and food rations makes its way through agricultural fields, toward a crowd, where Murad holds his daughters’ hands. The 40 year-old farmer’s life has drastically changed and he now relies solely on humanitarian aid. The truck pulls over and his two daughters line up as the distribution starts. Relieved smiles appear on their faces when they are given blankets. “This is going to be very useful,” says Murad. “We fled our city carrying minimal items needed for our household. We really need this kind of assistance.”
In March 2017, Murad and his family left their home due to constant bombing. “One week after we fled, the place where we had found refuge was bombed, and we had to move again. Despite what happened, I still consider myself lucky. There are millions of people who are displaced in Syria right now. Most of the shelters are overcrowded and some people don’t even find a place to stay. At least I managed to find a small house that I can rent with my two brothers.”
A stressful situation
In another part of Syria, more than 3,200 families are receiving food kits at a separate distribution point. Abo Nabil grabs one and puts it in a stroller, seemingly relieved. Two months ago, the father of six and his family fled the bombing in their city. “When the fighting intensified, our house was shelled by mortar,” Abo says. “We had no choice but to leave. Since then, so much has changed for us. We now live in an unfinished building, with other displaced families. I can no longer work and I simply do not have the money to buy food for my wife and children. This situation is particularly stressful... so I’m grateful for this food.”
Handicap International's manager for emergency distributions in southern Syria explains how most of the internally displaced people live in unfinished buildings used as collective shelters or even in tents that they set up on their own. “The majority fled their home leaving everything behind," he explains. "They now depend on water trucks passing through the area, and on the food boxes we can donate to them.
“People might sometimes wonder why giving out food parcels, blankets, or mattresses is important in such a context, but it is life-saving for some of these families. Indeed, the distributions we carry out considerably decrease their level of vulnerability in such context. The situation in Syria doesn’t seem to improve and we expect the conflict to continue for additional years. New people are displaced every day. They sometimes have to leave on foot, with no possibility to carry anything with them. And they usually do not have the financial means to buy the items we distribute."
The sound of bombing
Safety concerns sometimes impede the distribution process. “We often have to suspend distributions because of airstrikes,” the project manager says. “At times, we hear the sound of bombings just a few miles away. But we will keep on providing this type of assistance despite the circumstances. The situation of internally displaced people is critical and we have to address their daily needs.”
HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL AND THE SYRIAN CRISIS
Nearly 900,000 people have benefited from Handicap International’s actions since launching operations in 2012. The organization provides physical rehabilitation services and psychological support, and distributes emergency aid to meet the basic needs of people with injuries, people with disabilities and particularly vulnerable individuals. To prevent injuries and death, Handicap International also issues awareness-raising and safety messages targeting local populations living amid explosive remnants of war. Learn more about our work in Syria and read our February 2017 Syrian/Iraqi situation report.
All photos in this story are credited to E. Fourt and Handicap International.