“WE ARE AFRAID TO GO TO SLEEP AT NIGHT”: A SYRIAN WIDOW’S STRUGGLE TO CARE FOR HER CHILDREN

Since her husband died, Um Bashir has been the sole provider for her 7 children, with whom she lives in a camp for displaced people in northern Syria. The family live in fear; life in a camp is frightening for a single mother and her children.

“When we go to sleep at night, we all feel very frightened. We feel the absence of my husband more at night, and it makes us feel unsafe.”

She raises her children alone in a camp in the western Idlib countryside, where they live in poverty. Her son, Ahmed, is 11-years-old and is living with a disability which requires full time care. She describes their difficult daily routine:

“Ahmed requires medicine, but I cannot afford enough of it. He sleeps for long periods and cries very often. Every morning, I change his clothes, give him some medicine, and bring him some breakfast. He loves tea. He also loves hearing the Qur’an.”

Going to bed with empty stomachs

Life has been extremely difficult for the family. They fled their home as bullets and bombs rained down, in terror of the loud noises and planes overhead. By the time they reached the camp in which they are currently sheltering, they have been displaced several times. Poverty and hunger are their constant companions.

“As the days have passed by, my children have gone without dinner because we live in poverty.”

To support her children, Um Bashir started working for a daily wage, harvesting crops. She has been able to use some of this money to buy school supplies for her young daughters, who she has sent to school. She is currently working on the olive harvest with her other daughters, telling us, “I do my best at home and am thankful for my patient children.”

 Every day, Hamza faces huge challenges as he works with the Islamic Relief team to provide life-saving aid in Syria.

Every day, Hamza faces huge challenges as he works with the Islamic Relief team to provide life-saving aid in Syria.

The struggles of winter

Sadly, Um Bashir still cannot earn enough for sufficient food or medicine, and the harsh Syrian winter makes life even more difficult.

“During the winter, I need firewood to keep my children warm. When firewood is not available, I burn old, worn out clothes in the stove, so that my children can stay warm. My children have asked me for winter clothes but I cannot afford them.”

Fears of coronavirus

The Covid-19 pandemic has also compounded the many difficulties that families face, threatening illness and death. The conditions in the camp make following the guidelines difficult, but Um Bashir does what she can to protect herself and her children.

I make sure my children wear masks, clean their hands with soap, and do not mix with anyone, to try to prevent them from getting infected. If someone does get infected, I don’t know what to do. There is no space here to isolate, except for our small tent, so I am very afraid of what might happen to my children during this epidemic.”

“I hope Syrian people will feel safe”

Islamic Relief has provided emergency aid to families in the region. Um Bashir has received food parcels, hygiene kits, fresh qurbani meat, a mattress, plastic sheets, and blankets. Food is very expensive in Syria, particularly staples such as grains, sugar, rice, and bulgar, so the food parcels make a big difference to families struggling to find food.

“The food baskets we receive help to ease our burden. After 10 years of crisis, I hope that God will free the Syrian people so that we can return to our country and move on with our lives in peace.”

As part of our extensive humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria, Islamic Relief has been providing food and freshly baked bread, reaching over 770,000 people in 2020 alone.

With your help, we will continue to be a lifeline for those still suffering after a decade of crisis: please donate to our Syria appeal.