The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

The reality of war in Syria

War broke out in Syria five years ago, and cities like Aleppo and Damascus have been largely reduced to rubble. No-one could have foretold this would happen and it has left 13.5 million people affected or displaced.

Abdo Alsagir, Maha Sheikh Alard and their five children are originally from Jobar in Damascus. Abdo worked in a shop and the family lived in the same building. Life before the war was ideal, the boys and the girls had their own rooms.

At the beginning of the conflict the family were too frightened to sleep in their own beds and had to sleep on the floor. The bullets would come through the windows and the walls. It was very dangerous with mortar shells falling. Abdo has diabetes and high blood pressure, which became worse under the extremely stressful conditions.

The family have been living in a basement in another part of the city since 2012. There is electricity for only three hours a day. Alma (pictured above) was just born when they moved here. They didn’t bring anything with them as they thought they would be back home soon. Their old house is now in a war zone and impossible to reach. Everyone has left, either to other parts of Damascus or they have left the country.

“We can’t leave Syria. Where would we go? And how would a big family with no money get there? And what would we do when we arrived?” said Abdo. “At the moment, our priority is to help our children study. One day they will be able to live again. Our only wish is that they have better lives.”

Abdo is without a job because of his illness, but their son works as a porter every day for up to five hours. He left school at 13 years old. He works just for tips and on a good day he earns 600 Syrian pounds. The work is very difficult and he always has back pains. His parents are not happy that their son is working, but there is no other option. Before the war they would have made him continue school, but as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) they have no other source of income and rely on organisations like Caritas, from whom they get school uniforms, food baskets, nappies, mattresses and blankets.

“When you need something, you cannot buy it. For something that was 10 Syrian pounds, now it costs 100. Two years ago you could buy 24 eggs for 80 Syrian pounds, now they cost 800. Prices are rising but income is staying the same, so we’re getting poorer,” said Abdo. “I can’t give my children any money for snacks at school, not even for a small bag of potato chips.”

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is working in Syria with partners Secours Catholique (Caritas France) and Caritas Syria. We are supporting a programme in Aleppo which provides emergency supplies (including blankets, mattresses and kitchen sets) and vital healthcare to people in need. There is a particular focus on the elderly, an especially vulnerable group.

Every donation Caritas receives until 1 August 2016 was doubled by the New Zealand Aid Programme.

You can make a real difference to the most vulnerable within Syria     

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust