Um Ahmad, 73, lives with her nine grandchildren. Before the conflict began, she and her family were safe and comfortable in Hobait, near Idleb.
The grandmother remembers happy times in her village, which is where she grew up, went to school, and enjoyed family gatherings later in life.
“It took the crisis a few months to expand and reach the areas near our village. One night, there was an explosion that was heard by all the residents. I can never forget that explosion. I wish that I had died before I heard it, as that sound was the beginning of a new chapter of homelessness. It resembles an eraser that replaced the past happy memories with sorrow, sadness and killing.”
As the area was hit with rockets, barrel bombs and airstrikes, she and her family fled in the dark. They ran across a field and hid in a cave until the situation seemed to calm.
“When my son went to check the house and bring whatever he could, including water for the children – who were terrified – the rockets suddenly started to hit the village again.
“When my son was late [returning to us] we found out that he, the father of my five grandchildren, was killed in that airstrike. Sufficient for us is God, and [He is] the best disposer of affairs.”
With no food, drink or shelter, Um Ahmad took her grandchildren and travelled to a camp for displaced people in Kah, Syria. In the first camp, there were so many people that the humanitarian organisations were not able to meet their needs. They waited three days for a tent, before trying another camp – where they still did not receive shelter. Finally, they arrived at Al-Karama camp where she was given a tent within two days.
“Islamic Relief came and wrote down our urgent needs. We were unable to bring anything with us: no clothes or blankets. We have lost everything, including our livelihood, and we are now in need of a continuous aid.
“The following day they brought a number of sheets, blankets and tent sealants as well as food parcels for us and for other large number of new arrivals of displaced people. Thanks to God, then to you for the essential items that you provide for us.
“Islamic Relief has provided carpets, tents, blankets and food parcels continuously. They also provided the toilet units and lavatories. In addition, they put smiles on my grandchildren’s faces by distributing high-quality winter clothes, in exact sizes and according to the children’s choice. This was the first help of its kind which made my son’s children forget their sadness and made them extremely happy.
“You have reminded me of their father’s role who used to bring new clothes for them every year. I consider Islamic Relief to be our family as it plays the role of the father for my grandchildren. You reminded us of the happy memories of the past. This alleviated our pains and sadness tremendously.”
Despite the work of Islamic Relief, Um Ahmad finds little safety and relief in the camp.
“Come and see us now, there is nothing. Everything has disappeared, our dreams have gone and we are now living in the dark. We live in God’s eyes. From the mansions to the graves,” she said, comparing her family home to the tents in which her family and many others are struggling to survive.
“The cold weather is going to kill the children as the tent is not made to protect from cold. This is because we have no heater, but even if we have one, we will be unable to buy wood and enjoy the warmth because we have no money. Every day, the children suffer from cold, diarrhea and influenza because of the extreme cold. The temperature often reaches -5 °Celsius overnight.”
The family owns a traditional kerosene stove, but when they light it for cooking or warmth, the smoke turns the inside of the tent black. There is little water in which to wash their clothes, and during the summer heat the family need to open the ventilation openings in the tent – leaving them vulnerable to snakebites and scorpion stings.
“We are sitting here and keeping silent. At night, my grandchildren lay next to me, and I warm them until they sleep. We await relief from God. Most of the time, I am worried about the children. Every day I get wrapped up in thoughts and think about what I would do if I lose any of them, and that’s why I often cannot sleep.
“My grandchildren also suffer from not attending schools given the unavailability of teachers or official schools, or books or pens. We are concerned about them as most of my grandchildren have missed four years of regular schooling, which will affect them in the future.”
The children’s clothing is wearing out, she said, and the children are sad as there is no money to get them new clothes. Um Ahmad sees that the children are losing weight, due to the lack of nutritious food.
“We would like to get the message across to the supporters of Islamic Relief that you are responsible for our children, as you are our family and our home. We thank you for your generosity and bounty, and we wish you more. May God bless you.”
Um Ahmad, like so many others caught up in Syria’s deadly conflict, faces an uncertain future. But as the crisis enters yet another year, she holds onto her faith and hope that one day she and her family can go home.
“I think that the crisis will continue for more than eight years. Now hunger chases us on a daily basis, and we don’t know what the future holds. We hope to return [home] soon. I would hope to live poor in my village rather than being rich in this camp. God willing, relief is not far.”
Islamic Relief has been delivering life-saving aid since the onset of the crisis, and working on the ground in Syria since 2012. We also assist refugee families in countries including Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Islamic Relief has reached over 7 million people since the beginning of the crisis and is working deep inside Syria as well as in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq