Syria: what life is like after 7 years of war

Video: People in Australia, Botswana, USA, Brazil, Zimbabwe talk about the last 7 years - then Syrian refugee Fatmeh describes what the last 7 years have been like for her.

What is life really like for Syria's people after seven years of conflict? Three families tell their story.

All names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.

Southern Syria

Ali used to own farms, machines and water wells in his hometown in Dara’a governorate in southern Syria. But he lost everything when he fled his home for the sake of his family’s safety.

Ali and his wife, Salimah, have seven children: the oldest is 16, the youngest is 7 – the same age as the conflict that has ravaged Syria for the last seven years.

After moving from one place to another in search of safety for a year and a half, the family found a makeshift shelter in Dara’a. Their new home had no windows or doors and the perforated brick walls offered little protection against the cold weather. Ali improved the shelter by adding windows and doors, made out of pieces of fabric.

Ali with sons in their home in Syria
Ali with three of his children in the basic shelter that the family now calls home

The family has been living in these difficult conditions for two years. Salimah struggles to find ways to feed and dress her children. She collects scattered pieces of wood and breaks dry tree branches to light a fire to provide some warmth in the harsh winter months. She heads to nearby fields to find roots and vegetables and cooks simple meals of rice and leftovers.

Every Tuesday and Friday, Ali heads to the cattle market to find day jobs. He makes between 13,000 and 26,000 Syrian Pounds (US $25 to $50), which is not enough to put food on the table.

He says, while trying to hold back his tears in front of his children:

Until the last day of my life, I will keep fighting hunger and will not surrender to unemployment. I want to teach that to my children.

Eastern Ghouta

In the small town in Eastern Ghouta where Amani used to live, all the houses have been flattened to the ground. Her father and three of her uncles were killed in front of her very eyes.

She recalls her aunt being beaten, raped and then executed under her gaze.

While everyone from her town fled, Amani, her husband Khaled and their children tried to stay on. But life in besieged Eastern Ghouta was unbearable. So Amani left with the children to look for a place that would be safe from the airstrikes.

She reached As-Suwayda governorate when it was covered with snow, but she couldn’t find a shelter for her children. She then headed to Quneitra governorate, where she finally settled in a camp set on rocky land close to the Syrian-Israeli border and distant from any inhabited areas.

Tents at a camp in Syria
Al-Rahma Camp where Amani and her children now live

Amani now lives with her three children in a small tent that offers little protection from the hot summers and cold winters. Every day, she has to walk a long way to get clean water. With the prevalence of snakes and scorpions, she lives in constant worry for her children.

Amani says that Al-Rahma (mercy, in Arabic) Camp has no mercy. It is filled with rocks and thorns, which she spends hours plucking from her children’s feet when they are done playing for the day. She says:

My only wish is to have a dignified life with my husband and children, away from the war and this dangerous environment.

Amani with children inside tent in Syria
Amani and her children inside their tent home

Northern Syria

Um Mohammed lost her husband in an airstrike in Hama, and her house was destroyed. She moved with her son Mohammed and his three children, her daughter and her 4-year-old granddaughter to a small village in the countryside of Idlib. They all live in a two-room house which barely fit for living, with no doors or windows.

Neighbours gave them thin mattresses and blankets to spread on the floor, while the makeshift kitchen stands in one corner. Water is stored in a few plastic containers, and the bathroom is actually a pit toilet next to a space where they wash themselves.

Um Mohammed and her family have been displaced several times. They left Hama to another area which was besieged for almost two months. She says:

We had to drink the water in the cars’ radiators to quench our thirst.

The besieged families were later allowed to leave the area to go to Idlib, before they were displaced again by the fighting. Um Mohammed says she had no option but to head to the village she now lives in with her family and to stay in this small, unfinished house.

Um Mohammed in a corridor in her home in Syria
Um Mohammed inside the house where she and her family now live

Um Mohammed was injured in the airstrike that killed her husband, and her son suffers from a kidney disorder. So it is hard to find work. She worked for a while as a cleaner in a school, where a local aid organisation paid her US $100 per month. This helped her secure some of her household needs, including food, heating and winter clothing, as well as medicine for her son.

But otherwise, the family depends on help from their neighbours to get by. Um Mohammed says:

I wish we had a fixed income so we could live in a house big enough for all of us. I wish I could buy all the food that my children crave and new clothes that they have been dreaming of since the beginning of the war.

Um Mohammed's story was provided by our partner in northern Syria, Violet Organization.

The Syria conflict has now lasted seven years. More than 400,000 people have been killed. One quarter of the population has fled the country. Millions are in need of aid inside Syria.

It’s time this stops.​

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