One year and eight months since the start of the uprising in Syria, the bloody battle continues between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule. Children and innocent civilians are caught up in the fighting. With no sense of security or stability, parents are unable to provide for their children and children are unable to enjoy their childhood.
Since 1996, SOS Children have operated an SOS Family Strengthening Programme in Damascus, to support vulnerable families in the community to stay together and ensure that children have access to essential services. In partnership with other organisations, we are now helping over 3,900 people, including many children, and many who have found themselves homeless as a result of the conflict.
This is the story of one family supported through the SOS Family Strengthening Programme.
A life of fear
Sawaf used to work as a driver for a private company, before he lost his legs as a result of diabetes and was unable to work. Yet, he was still able to support his wife Aysha and their son Amjad (12) on his retirement salary.
Aysha says: "We didn't live a great life before but we could survive decently. I didn't send my son to school last year, fearing any random bullets. Recently we did not have electricity or water. My husband is sick and disabled and I have to support him and give him his medicines. Many days passed and I couldn't leave home, there were days we didn't have anything to eat at home.”
She describes one particularly traumatic night: “I didn't think we were going to survive it. Shells were falling everywhere in front of our house. We hid in the kitchen and I was so scared, I couldn't stand it and started to cry and to scream. In the early morning, when the fights ceased for a while, I ran away from our house with my son, I couldn't take my husband so we left him at home. But the next day, his brother went and saved him and now he is living together with his brothers' family and I am living with another family. We are no longer one family! I want to go back home and continue with our old routine. To take care for my husband and my son, they are my life."
Aysha's ten-year-old son Amjad says: "I no longer want to go back home, I am afraid of going back there. I used to hide in the kitchen between the oven and the refrigerator on the floor closing my ears with my fingers so I don't hear the shelling and shooting. I miss my dad, he is far from us. I am dreaming about being with mom and dad in a new house. I will never go back again to our old house, we were so scared there."