To support vulnerable families in Syria a number of Caritas Internationalis member organisations, among which Cordaid, support the CARMA project: Cash Assistance in Re-Emerging Markets in Syria.
The project was launched in 2019 with funds from the European Union.
On this page, you will find the stories of Syrians who, thanks to cash assistance, are finding ways to get back on their feet after years of despair.
After the violence, new challenges arise
Every morning Abbas sits with his son Najim in front of an old house in East Ghouta, a region just outside of the Syrian capital of Damascus. They like to spend time playing games and chatting with their neighbours.
The 55-year-old experienced extreme difficulties during the war. First, he lost his wife and later they had to amputate his leg due to an untreatable injury.
And like millions of others in Syria, he had to move from town to town to escape the ongoing violence.
About two years ago, the gun blasts in East Ghouta ceased, but now a whole new set of challenges presented itself to Abbas and his son: how to get through the day without any income? After all almost 10 years of war and destruction, there are hardly any job opportunities left. “I am confused. We are completely powerless”, Abbas says.
Basic goods have become unaffordable
Abbas received support through the CARMA project to cover his basic needs. This helped him pay off the debts he made during the war and to bay basic items for the house. Abbas: “This support is very valuable and we truly appreciate it.”
The Syrian economy is currently suffering from the devaluation of the Syrian lira. As a result, basic goods have become unaffordable for most families. Already weakened after all the years of devastation, many people cannot cope with the economic crisis.
Like Israa, a 50-year-old resident of East Ghouta who lives with her mother and two sisters in a small apartment without electricity or heating.
When the fighting began, Israa and her family fled from their home. Two years ago, when they were finally able to move back, they found their old house completely destroyed. On top of that, Israa and her sisters have no income at all.
“We seek hope in every little detail around us. Although it’s hard to see it now, we hold on to our hope that tomorrow will be better and that we can live the rest of our lives peacefully and happily.”
“My mother and my eldest sister have serious health problems, their mobility is very limited”, she says saddened. Her mother suffered a stroke many years ago and her sister has a neurological disease.
No income = no life-saving medication
Israa spends her days working around the house; cleaning, cooking and caring for her sick family members, which makes it impossible for her to find a permanent job and generate a steady income.
And if that wasn’t enough, disaster struck again. The well of financial reserves dried up entirely and the family had to stop all treatments. Medical bills, medication and transport to the clinic and pharmacy: they could no longer afford any of it.
Thanks to the CARMA project they were able to resume doctor visits and purchase essential medication. Israa: “It was such a precious gift.”
Finally, this allows Israa to also enjoy some of the time she spends with her family. She describes the most carefree hours of her day: “Since we have no electricity and no television, we listen to the radio on a mobile phone. We also read jokes and anecdotes from old books. We seek hope in every little detail around us. Although it’s hard to see it now, we hold on to our hope that tomorrow will be better and that we can live the rest of our lives peacefully and happily.”
Nothing is the same anymore
Somewhere in a side street in Mleha, one of the main towns in the East Ghouta region, shopkeeper Ebad is busy around the clock. Ebad’s store, fully stocked with all kinds of goods, has become quite a phenomenon in the area, mostly because of its low prices.
“This support is incredibly important for the whole town.”
Ebad, in his fifties, reopened his business about two years ago. “I ran the shop together with my brother and six employees. In the past, we never had a moment of peace, there were always so many customers. Thank God we can work again, but nothing is like it was before. I do everything I can to keep the shop running without raising the prices.”
Most people in Mleha, home to about 4000 families, have almost no purchasing power due to the scarce employment opportunities. People only buy the most basic necessities, such as inexpensive vegetables, beans and rice. Many have no other option but to buy on credit, which causes a lot of worry for Ebad and other shopkeepers.
Cash to support the entire community
Asked about the best way to support the people of East Ghouta, Ebad answers without hesitation: “Cash assistance!”
The most important reason, according to Ebad: “We try everything to avoid having to remind families about paying their debts but at some point, us shopkeepers will start lining up for help too. If people receive cash assistance, they can pay off some of their debts in the shops. This helps both the buyers as well as the shopkeepers. Customers won’t have to be afraid to come back to our store and we can offer more goods. We all benefit.”
Compared to other types of humanitarian aid efforts, cash assistance enables people to better tailor the support they receive to their specific, individual needs. “They can buy whatever they want”, the shopkeeper continues. “Be it fuel for heating or cooking, water or food items of their own choice. Some have paid off their debts, others are just buying the things they need. This support is incredibly important for the whole town.”