Returnees to Syria compound challenging disaster response effort – FCA is supporting the survivors of the Syria earthquake with warm clothes and cash distributions
Syrian families who lost their homes in the recent earthquake have already spent weeks in temporary shelters. FCA is responding to the most urgent needs, while also continuing essential school rehabilitation work.
FINN CHURCH AID’S(FCA) emergency aid distributions in Syria are in full operation with 4,000 adults and children in the Aleppo area reached by mid-March. Families who lost their homes in the devastating earthquake received warm winter clothes and hygiene items.
“We received the aid packages just in time. The classrooms are cold. We don’t have enough clothes or mattresses for my children to feel warm,” described a mother in Aleppo, who received aid at the end of February.
The family are currently living in emergency accommodation at a local school.
The series of earthquakes that started on February 6, 2023 caused enormous destruction not only in Turkey but also in Syria, where the humanitarian situation was already difficult due to the 12-year war.
Lia Mohamad al-Hayek was born on February 6, the same day that the earthquake shook Syria and Turkey. Lia has spent the first weeks of her life in emergency accommodation together with her mother, father and two siblings. In the photo, Lia is in the arms of Anadel, an FCA employee.
The earthquakes killed at least 6,000 people in Syria. According to estimates, more than 100,000 families have had to leave their homes.
Around 50,000 families are living in temporary shelters and with local families in in Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Latakia where FCA is active. The situation is the most severe in Aleppo and Latakia.
Life is cramped in emergency accommodation
Karam Sharouf, FCA’s Syria program manager, has spent a lot of time on the ground in Aleppo. He says that five weeks after the earthquake, the conditions are still extremely difficult.
“There is a huge lack of resources in international aid to Syria. We need more funding,” says Sharouf.
In Syria, the humanitarian situation is also challenging because the regional resources, for example in terms of education and healthcare, have long been insufficient. When fighting subsided, people started to return to their homes. In short, the earthquake got people moving again and this brings with it increased demand for support.
“Many Syrians who fled the war to Turkey have now returned to the Aleppo region. There have been Syrian refugees in Turkey in Kahramanmaraş and Antakya. Their homes were destroyed. According to estimates, there have been tens of thousands of returnees to Syria after the earthquake,” Sharouf describes.
Families who have lost their homes live in cramped emergency accommodation in Syria. Families sleep side by side on mattresses pushed together on the floor. There is no privacy. It’s not always possible for the female population to have their own toilets and washing facilities in the shelter.
“More than 60 people could be staying in one room,” Sharouf describes.
Ward (right) from FCA talks to a family in emergency accommodation in Aleppo. The family lost their home and have no savings to rent a new home. The mother is expecting her fourth child, and the wheelchair serves as a stroller for the youngest in the family.
Cash assistance helps those who have lost their livelihood
FCA has so far granted a total of 400,000 euros from its disaster fund to help earthquake victims in the Aleppo region and western Syria. Supplies are still being distributed.
The families will soon also receive cash assistance from FCA. With the help of cash, families can buy the things they need: for example, food, clothes or hygiene items.
“A large number of people have lost their means of livelihood. We support 350 families in Aleppo and Latakia with cash distributions,” says Sharouf.
Young people do not see their future in Syria
Millions of people in Syria were in need of humanitarian aid even before the earthquake. One humanitarian disaster after another has made life difficult. According to Sharouf, Syrians are really frustrated.
“Young people are now trying to travel abroad to get a future for themselves. There is no solution to the war, the economic situation is getting worse, and people don’t have jobs. In addition, health care and the school system are in a weak state”, he says.
FCA‘s work in Syria has for years focused not only on meeting the basic needs of people living in difficult situations, but also on supporting the country’s education sector.
We rehabilitated schools damaged during the war and train teachers in addition to organising
. remedial education and extracurricular activities for children. Our work also focuses on psychosocial support, the needs of which have increased in the aftermath of the earthquake.
In 2023, FCA will perform rehabilitation work in up to 77 Syrian schools which have suffered damage during the war and earthquake.
Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen
Photos: FCA Syria Country Office
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