“We woke up to the sound of bullets and very loud crashing noises,” remembers Fatima* as she recounts the night her husband was killed. “He wanted to know what was happening — someone told him that his uncle had been killed — so he went outside onto the street.
“My children started grabbing onto me from fear and started crying. I went to look for him, and after a while I found him dead with his family members.”
The family was traumatized by the death of their husband and father. “Since my husband was killed, my children don’t want to speak because they miss their father so much,” Fatima explains.
Being a widow in a war zone is not easy. Fatima struggles daily to provide for her children. “I have four kids. They can’t work. There are a lot of things they need but I can’t provide for them. I depend on people’s help — and on assistance. It’s hard but I accept the help for the sake of my children. I have three daughters and a boy asking for things I can’t buy for them. I am afraid the aid will be cut off.”
Catastrophic impact on Syrian families
In the last two years, as international involvement in the conflict has increased, the scale of fighting in Syria has only intensified and more civilian lives have been shattered. The UN reports that 85% of the Syrian population is now living in poverty. Over 13 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, with five million of these in besieged or hard-to-reach areas. More than 11 million people have been displaced — six million within Syria.
The widespread use of heavy weapons in populated areas, the shifting lines of control, denial of humanitarian access and attacks on aid convoys, and the use of deliberate siege and starvation military tactics, have all had a severe impact on civilians — and on the ability of humanitarian organizations to respond.
Reaching 650,000 people
With support from key international government donors — including USAID, Irish Aid, DFID, and ECHO — and generous donations from the public, we have been responding to the crisis in Syria for over four years, helping victims of the conflict in Turkey, Lebanon and within Syria itself.
In 2016, Concern helped 650,00 people affected by the crisis across the region, and directly reached at least 390,000 people inside Syria. Our work in Syria focuses mainly on emergency response, supporting internally displaced people in the north of the country — people like the Haddads*, who had to flee their home when local living conditions became unbearable.
Late last year, fear of being recruited into a military group left Fadil* Haddad’s movement very restricted. “I became afraid to walk to the market,” he explains. “I didn’t know what would happen. At any moment, someone could have grabbed me and held me in confinement for any silly reason or forced me to take up arms.” This meant he could no longer do his job as a fisherman. With 11 dependents, the cost of food and other essentials increasing, and bombardments becoming more frequent, he made the difficult decision to leave with his family.
The journey to a safer city was long and arduous — and much of it was made on foot. “We were taken along a difficult trail,” he recalls. “My wife tripped on a rock and broke her arm. The children were so tired I had to carry two of them the whole way.” Thankfully, they managed to find shelter, and food was available when they arrived.
Concern’s support for internally displaced families includes hygiene kits, water supplies, shelter for homeless families, food baskets, and vouchers that allow people to purchase food in local markets.
When we first arrived, Concern provided food baskets for us and also registered us to receive food vouchers. We were so thankful.
Despite help from organizations such as Concern, life for families like the Haddads is not without fear. “My brothers are still afraid of recruitment as they are of the right age,” Fadil tell us. “They don’t go to the market, fearful of people and their agenda. I worry that fishing will not be enough to provide for my family. The market is not very good at the moment and I don’t think we can cover all of our needs. Still, I am trying. I pray to God that this hateful war will end soon so that I can return to my city again — where I know my neighbors.”
Read our report
Concern’s new report, “Shattered lives: protecting civilians in war-torn Syria — a shared responsibility” highlights — through focus groups reports and individual testimonies — how this devastating six-year conflict has shattered the lives of ordinary Syrians. It also outlines what needs to be done, on a political and humanitarian level, to support them.
*In order to protect the identities of the people we spoke with, we have changed their names, obscured locations, and used illustrations rather than photographs.
Help us reach more vulnerable families like those inside Syria