Syria crisis: "We dread this time of year"

Barsha outside the tent she and her family are living in, near Mafraq, Jordan

We have dreaded this time of the year for the past four years. Every winter, we suffer from the cold.

Leaning on her cane, Barsha welcomes us to her tent, in a desolate wasteland near Mafraq, Jordan, and invites us to follow her inside. The tent is empty except for a few mattresses and carpets covering the floor.

Barsha inside the tent
Barsha inside the tent, where the only furniture is mattresses and carpets

Before the conflict in Syria, Barsha lived with her family near Homs. They decided to flee after the death of four of her ten sons. “Two were killed by a bomb and the other two died because of the lack of access to healthcare,” she tells us.

“Shortly after we arrived in Jordan, we moved to this neighborhood in Mafraq because UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] was distributing tents here. We chose this place because it is a bit higher. When it rains, the tent is not flooded.”

But we can’t do anything to prevent the mattresses from remaining damp all night. The roof of the tent is waterproof but the water leaks from the sides.

Puddles on waste ground near the tents
Puddles on waste ground near the tent that Barsha and her family live in

It rained heavily last night in Jordan, and enormous puddles of water cover the area on which dozens of tents occupied by Syrian families are set up. In winter, temperatures during the night fall below zero. Further to the north, it is already snowing. Barsha says:

We know that blankets and coats will not protect us from this cold.

Barsha and her husband receive the equivalent of US$28 per month in food vouchers from the World Food Programme. That’s all they have – and it’s not enough to buy other things like basic hygiene items, or to pay for healthcare. “We have no source of income,” says Barsha, “and we have to borrow money from our neighbours.”

To help the family through the harsh winter months, CARE provided them with a winter kit including blankets, mattresses, a heater, and US$60 for fuel. But Barsha is already concerned that the winter will be long and that they won’t have enough money to pay to refill the gas cylinders.

“In Syria, we had everything we needed. In the summer, we worked on farms and raised animals. We spent the winter in a warm house. In the spring, the grass grows,” she says, looking at the desert terrain that stretches around us.

“Is there anyone who does not miss their country in exile? Especially when living in these conditions,” she says.

We were forced to flee Syria. We could not stay. We all were under the risk of dying there. And now, with no solutions on the horizon… What kind of a life do we have here?

Barsha and CARE staff member Mohammad
Barsha talking to CARE staff member Mohammad

Suddenly, she worries: “I have not even offered you tea!” We reassure her and I ask her what she wishes for the future. “Pray for us,” she answers. “I also wish for you to be happy. CARE has helped us. I consider you now as my children. You are my son,” she says, addressing Mohammad, who is in charge of CARE’s work in Mafraq, “and you are my daughter,” she says to me.

I wish you a beautiful life, now and in the future.

By Laury Anne Bellessa, Media Manager for CARE France.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.