Life as a refugee

Homes in ruins

Syrians come face-to-face with the aftermath of more than a decade of conflict.

Updated 26 Apr 2022

Syrians come face-to-face with the aftermath of more than a decade of conflict.

Syrians come face-to-face with the aftermath of more than a decade of conflict.

Meeting critical needs

More than a decade of conflict has left Syria in shambles with more than 14.6 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance.

In places with ongoing conflicts and where 15.5 million people lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation and many live in damaged homes, needs are at their highest.

One of the Danish Refugee Council’s (DRC) top priorities in Syria is to meet these critical needs and to ensure the rehabilitation of damaged houses and access to safe water with humanitarian funding from the European Union.

“I wish it had just been a nightmare, but it was not,” exclaimed Jamal.

“I wish it had just been a nightmare, but it was not,” exclaimed Jamal.

Difficult times

With his wife and two children in tow, Jamal left his house and continued to move across the country, escaping the fighting that would inevitably follow them.

“It was an extremely difficult time. We fled three times since the beginning of the war,” said Jamal.

Jamal and his family first moved to his wife’s old house, then to his brother’s house and then to a displacement settlement. After years of living without a place to call home and moving between cities and towns, Jamal and his wife decided to go back to their house and try to rebuild their lives. What Jamal did not expect was the destruction he came face-to-face with when they arrived home.

The fighting in Syria left more than 47 per cent of the houses with damages, making them in a lot of cases inhabitable. Jamal’s house was badly damaged and they had no access to even the basic needs to live in dignity. Without any windows or doors, the family was forced to survive Syria’s very cold winter by covering the windows with blankets.

“When we returned to our house, there was nothing to protect us from the cold nights. We had no water and no electricity; it used to bring me to tears watching my wife hugging my shivering children on long winter nights,” added Jamal.

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Basic needs

Basic needs

To help alleviate their struggles and provide them with a better life, DRC was able to help Jamal and several families in Idlib by rehabilitating their homes.

Today, Jamal is finally able to live a dignified life and has access to the basic needs for his family to survive and to focus on rebuilding their lives. “Moving back into the apartment after all we had been through was an answer to our prayers. We are extremely thankful for everything we have received,” concluded Jamal with a smile.

House in ruins

As the fighting reached their neighbourhood in Homs, Ahmad and his five children were forced to flee their home and found safety in Rural Hama in Syria. Similar to Ahmad, more than 6.9 million Syrians were uprooted from their homes and now live in internal displacement across the country.

“We had to flee and ended up sharing a small house with my brother’s family and mother to be able to afford rent,” said Ahmad.

However, ongoing economic sanctions in addition to a worsening economic crisis and currency depreciation have led to record levels of food insecurity and a continuous increase in the prices of basic commodities across the country.

“Living expenses and rent were too expensive compared to our salaries, which depend on the daily hours we work,” he added.

Paying rent and living away from home was no longer an option for Ahmad.

“We were very excited to return to our house which we own,” he said.

Upon arriving, Ahmad was shocked to find his house in ruins.

“Words cannot describe my happiness when I returned home, but I knew we would face problems,” said Ahmad.

Their house had no water, no electricity and no basic equipment. Without access to basic necessities, Ahmad and his children could not live there.

With humanitarian funding from the European Union, DRC was able to help Ahmad. In coordination with authorities in the area, DRC supplied, distributed, and installed water tanks in Ahmad’s neighbourhoods, ensuring people in the area have access to clean and safe water.

The situation has improved. We now have a large and clean space to collect water which we use on a daily basis for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.

Ahmad

Multiple displacements

Multiple displacements

Ahmad’s situation is mirrored in thousands of houses across Syria. A comprehensive humanitarian response that meets their needs is vital to ensure they have access to their basic services such as water and sanitation, electricity and education. 

Ibtihaj and her mother were displaced multiple times ending in a displacement shelter in Homs. “I hate even thinking about our displacement, especially in the camp – it was a very difficult period. We had no privacy, shared a tiny room and had to share the bathroom and shower,” said Ibtihaj.

While they were safe for a while, without a stable source of income and with prices soaring due to the economic crisis the country is facing, Ibtihaj was no longer able to pay rent to keep a roof over her head. With the situation settling down back in her home area, Ibtihaj made the decision to move one last time, back to her house.

11 years of conflict

11 years of conflict

After 11 years of conflict, more than 47 per cent of houses across Syria are damaged, and Ibtihaj was faced with exactly that reality.

“When we returned the house had no windows, doors, electricity or even bathrooms. It was extremely hard to start from scratch, but we had to do what we could,” said Ibtihaj.

She and her mother started using blankets to cover the windows and doors to ensure they had some privacy. “At least it is my own house. It is my property,” she added.

To help Ibtihaj rebuild her life, DRC supported Ibtihaj with the rehabilitation of her house, finally giving her a place where she can live in dignity and comfort.

Today, Ibtihaj and her mother enjoy the work that has been done in the house.

In my opinion, this project is one of the most valuable projects implemented since we have returned. We no longer need to be hosted or live in shelters.

Ibtihaj

Funded by the European Union

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