On 15 March 2019, it will be eight years since the war in Syria started. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and many are displaced. 11.7 million people need aid. While in many parts of the country, the violence has subsided, people are still looking for safety and are desperately trying to rebuild their lives.
While there is, and has been support for life-saving aid, support to help people recover is limited. The international community is increasingly reluctant to support activities that it thinks could, in one way or another, strengthen the government of Syria. At the same time, the Syrian government’s restrictions on humanitarian agencies continue to hinder access to people in need.
This must and can change. Here's why:
1. Syrians want to rebuild their homes
Many are returning to homes that have been destroyed, to neighborhoods that have been razed to the ground.
Zohair, 58, lives in east Aleppo’s al-Zbdieh. Throughout the conflict, he and his family of 12 faced tremendous difficulties. They survived, but their house needs much work before it can be called a home.
Oxfam is helping rehabilitate some 250 damaged apartments in east Aleppo. This has spared many, like Zohair, the burden of having to repair their home entirely on their own.
Zohair*, 58, lives in east Aleppo’s al-Zbdieh. Throughout the conflict, he and his family of 12 faced tremendous difficulties, including having to flee for safety, several times. They benefited from the Oxfam-led apartment rehabilitation project. Photo: Islam Mardini/Oxfam *Name changed.
2. They need safe clean water
Fadi is one of many people who have returned to Eastern Ghouta’s Arbin. Though the fighting has subsided, and the security conditions relatively improved, the 45-year-old is facing other challenges that pose a risk to his five-member family, like contaminated water.
Oxfam is helping rehabilitate sewage networks in different neighborhoods in Eastern Ghouta. This helps to ensure the water in people’s homes is safe and clean, lowering the spread of water-borne diseases.
“My family and I fled Eastern Ghouta six years ago when the situation became unbearable. We left everything behind. Now we’re back, but my house is damaged, and wastewater always floods the streets,” Fadi*, 45, told us.
Oxfam is replacing old, broken sewage pipelines with new ones in Fadi's neighborhood, in order to avoid potential health risks. Photo: Dania Kareh/Oxfam *Name changed.
3. They don’t want handouts, they want food to be available
Rather than handout bread and other food items, Oxfam is focusing on helping people make a living and provide food for themselves. This includes the distribution of seeds, basic tools and animal fodder to farmers, providing cash-for-work opportunities, and supporting women and men gain new skills through vocational training.
Nouf, 44, fled her home in rural Aleppo’s Huajjeneh during the fighting. Although the mother of seven has recently returned with her family, she faces many difficulties – like hundreds of thousands of other women in Syria who must now provide for their families. To do that, she must overcome limited opportunities and defy social norms.
Oxfam has provided 250 vulnerable families in rural Aleppo with chickens and chicken feed to help them make a living. The eggs produced provide a source of both food and income.
“The eggs will help improve my children’s diet and we will sell the rest to earn some money to help us buy basic items we really need such as clothes and medicines,” Nouf tells Oxfam.
Nouf*, 44, recently returned to her home in Aleppo, after fleeing with her family during the fighting. Oxfam is helping people like Nouf rebuild their lives and become less aid-dependent. Photo: Dania Kareh *Name changed.
4. Children need functional schools
It’s the first school year for six-year-old Sham who fled with her family the violence in Harasta, Rural Damascus. Prior to Oxfam’s rehabilitating the water system and toilets, Sham* would not drink from the fountain. Similarly, her schoolmate, Noura*, would avoid using the one available bathroom because “it was smelly.”
In 2018, Oxfam fixed the water networks and toilets of 16 schools in Damascus, providing over 27,000 children with access to safe, clean water, and reducing public health risks associated with poor sanitation and water-borne diseases.
We are currently rehabilitating seven schools in eastern Ghouta and we hope to continue such planned projects in eastern Ghouta, at-Tal and Zabadani.
This helps provide a semblance of normalcy to these kids’ lives.
Oxfam is currently rehabilitating water networks and toilets in seven schools in eastern Ghouta. Photo: Dania Kareh/Oxfam *Names changed.
5. Above all, Syrians need peace
The humanitarian response in Syria is significantly underfunded.
The International Community must do more to support vulnerable people, no matter where in Syria they live.
The Government of Syria must provide unhindered humanitarian access to ensure all its citizens can access the basic services and humanitarian support they require.
World leaders must stop fueling the conflict and push for a durable, Syrian-led, and inclusive peace.
All parties to the conflict and those with influence over them should work to stop the violence. And help Syrians get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.
Mohammad, 66, sits in front of his home in Eastern Ghouta. Oxfam is helping rehabilitate sewage networks in his neighborhood. Photo: Dania Kareh/Oxfam
This entry posted on 13 March 2019, by Nadine Mazloum, Oxfam's Syria Crisis Response Media Advisor.
Top photo: Wadha, who lives in Deir Ez-Zor, is one of many people benefiting from Oxfam’s cash-for-work program. Credit: Dania Kareh/Oxfam