World Humanitarian Day 2016: CARE partners speak from inside Syria

By: 
Mahmoud Shabeeb
CARE partners are currently distributing emergency aid including blankets, kitchen items, solar lamps, mats, jerry cans, diapers, and other hygiene items to Syrian families in rural western Aleppo who have been displaced from their homes by the conflict

This World Humanitarian Day, we salute the work of our partners working to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Syria (names have been changed)

Wael, field coordinator, Syria

It is really difficult to deal with humanitarian cases, especially those dealing with disabilities caused by the war.

The people need so much psychological support to help them deal with their grief and the effects of living under siege.

But honestly – being able to reach such a large number of people in need makes me feel like I’ve seen some success. It motivates me to try and increase that number, because as long as that number keeps growing, I am reminded of the importance of my work.

I enjoy spreading the culture of humanitarian work. Securing a decent life for people, helping civilians avoid the effects of conflict, these motivate me, pushing me to continue the work. The results of any project we complete give me a sense of personal strength.

Working in emergency situations every day, we witness the increasingly devastating impacts on families, on communities.

There needs to be a unified effort from powerful countries to solve it – not just the efforts of humanitarian agencies. It’s situations like this in Syria where we feel we’re not helping enough. We need immediate assistance. We need the international community to act.

Mohammad, field coordinator, Syria

That split second, when I see a smile on a child’s face – this is my motivation.

It brings me happiness, at least during that day. My family and friends support me and are proud of me. This is a driving force that keeps me going. I’ve been doing this work for almost four years and, as long as the conflict lasts, I hope I find the energy to continue.

Every day I learn something new. I gain more experience, benefiting all those around me.

I have friends who also work in the humanitarian field, and when we sit down and talk about our work we exchange stories and experiences. It is a two way process that we both benefit from.

One of the most difficult things is that the need for aid keeps increasing and no matter how much help we provide we must redouble our efforts.

I desperately want us to reach all of the war-affected areas but unfortunately this isn’t possible. I have faced some very difficult times. Once I was kidnapped and threatened. It was a terrible experience, but I will not stop my work because of this.

The Syrian people are suffering and we each must do what we can to relieve it.

I am always in awe of the people we meet. One time we were distributing aid in rural Idleb. Things were calm and the weather was great. Three kids asked us to play football. They kept teasing us saying, “We know how to play better than you, wait and see!”

They formed a team, so did we. We started playing on recently ploughed ground, but our team was finding it hard to play because the ground was uneven. The kids started laughing at us and said, “See how we know how to play and you don’t!” It was humbling… knowing what children face, every day of this conflict, but they are still making the most of it.

Fatima, receptionist, community centre, Idleb governorate

From the beginning of the conflict, I suffered psychologically because I wasn’t working, but once I started working I became much better.

Helping put a smile on people’s faces is an encouraging part of this work.

As the needs continue to grow, I feel I must continue this service. We can’t afford to lose one day. We can’t afford to lose one aid worker as it would mean losing a part of the active force that would otherwise have helped people who have no remaining resources.

It’s this effective role that motivates me. Humanitarian work is not easy, but making life better for people who are living in war helps me forget all of my difficulties.

I’ve been through so much in my life. There were many times when I needed help. Now I am the one helping people.

I hope they don’t have to go through what I went through. This is what motivates me to work hard.

I worry, though. I worry that I won’t be able to continue the work if the war keeps getting worse, if we are prevented from helping people. The chaos in such an unstable situation makes me think about this every day… it makes me sad.

Despite this, we struggle against negative thinking. Some people lose hope and grow pessimistic, believing nothing will change. We can’t afford to think this way. In our work we try to avoid this kind of thinking.

Khadija, aid worker, southern Syria

It’s hard for everyone here, but especially for women, because we are the mothers, the wives, the ones responsible for so many things within the family.

There are many challenges for aid workers, but for me, it is particularly difficult being a woman.

In this area it’s not common for women to work as most people are conservative. But I believe it’s important we contribute, because so many Syrian households have only women. The men have died or disappeared, taken by the police.

So female aid workers play a key role in engaging female-headed households, homes that would otherwise not have access to our activities and support. With a woman on the team we are better able to engage vulnerable women.

This is the reason why I began this work. I saw that women were in need of my support. I wanted to help them during this difficult time, despite some of the dangers we face.

Often I feel a certain discomfort, or fear, that anything might happen. There could be a missile or mortar attacks. I might be the next one to die. Today, while traveling between towns there was an attack. Someone was killed on the road in front of us.

As Syrian aid workers, we are the affected helping the affected.

Abu Omar, aid worker, Quneitra governorate

I never imagined that one day I would work in humanitarian aid. I never thought Syria would be in such a terrible situation.

The needs are enormous and people are always in need of assistance.

Helping people can be a rewarding role, especially when reaching the most vulnerable, often women and children who are affected in the worst ways.

They cannot raise their own voices, the world does not hear them. This is why I am motivated to speak, to act, every single day.

When you find yourself helping people who have nothing, communities who are supported by no one, I know I’m doing the right work.

CARE’s humanitarian work

CARE is bound by its humanitarian mandate to deliver aid where it is needed the most, regardless of race, gender, political affiliation or nationality. We uphold the principle of working independently from any political, military, commercial or religious objectives. We strive to be accepted by the communities, with many of which we have been working for decades.

World Humanitarian Day on August 19 is the day to salute all aid workers around the world on their work. We are humbled by their commitment, their bravery and their will to stay behind and help communities when everyone else has left.

donate now

Mahmoud Shabeeb's picture

Mahmoud Shabeeb is Regional Communications Officer for CARE's Syria Response