This week, a team of Cordaid colleagues is traveling through Syria. Arriving in Homs on the third day, they are shocked: “Endless rows of inhabitable apartment blocks and not a living soul on the streets – that is what entire neighborhoods in Homs look like. The stories of families and aid workers who remained touch us profoundly.”
On the road to Homs, our Cordaid team had to make quite a detour. CEO Simone Filippini: “Along the first part of the road, there are still two villages occupied by Da’esh. They’re no-go areas. It’s a completely militarized environment here. In the cities, you will come across a checkpoint every 50 to 200 meters.”
It is a desert of destruction.
Compared to in Damascus, the destruction in Homs is far more visible. “It’s utterly unbelievable. Entire blocks of apartments have been bombed flat. You won’t even find dogs or cats on the streets. It really is a desert of destruction.”
‘Gunshots are normal in Homs’
Still, daily life in Homs continues. There are small shops and stalls, you can buy goods, and in the old town center three restaurants have just re-opened. The big supermarkets, however, remain closed.
Simone tells: “We had a bit of a shock when eating a sandwich from a kebab stall. As we got into our car, a salvo of AK47 sounded around the corner. Loud pangs, at just 20 meters distance! But the locals hardly showed any response. No one panicked, no one started to run. It turned out the shooter was a 30-year-old man, crying, who had just received note that his brother in Palmyra had been killed. He lost it and fired into the air out of desperation. Our Syrian colleagues tell us this happens a lot. Gunshots are a normal thing here.”
He lost it and fired into the air out of desperation.
No more work, no income
Whereas Syrians used to make around 600 euros a month on average, this same wage is now worth only 50 euros because of the inflation. The costs of rent, food and fuel have risen enormously. Many people have also lost their job or income because of the war. What remains is sheer poverty. Through Caritas Syria, Cordaid distributes medications, food stamps and hygiene packages in Homs, and contributes to people’s rent.
Fatimah (38) fled with her husband and 7 children from Aleppo to Homs. “In Aleppo, there was no water or electricity. We were stuck in-between the clashes, sometimes without food, locked in our house. One of my children, Omar, got hurt by a bomb. As soon as he was out of hospital, we left for Homs.” In Homs, the family survives by relying on aid.
It is so hard to accept that now, we are completely dependent on other people.
Fatimah, Syrian mother of seven
Six months ago, Fatimahs husband returned to Aleppo to earn money. “My husband used to keep a shop in electronics, but it was destroyed. Now, he makes sandwiches in restaurants. We used to be self-reliant and had a good life. It is so hard to accept that now, we are completely dependent on other people,” Fatimah says.
Lack of medical care
Simone: “Many doctors have fled abroad. Public hospitals are closed and private hospitals charge high prices. That is why Caritas pays for surgeries and medications of injured and sick people”.
“This is Suhil. He has leukemia. For his chemo therapy, he had to travel to Damascus for one week each month. That costs a fortune! His father works for the municipal water company and actually does not earn enough to be able to take care of Suhil and his two brothers. Suhil now wears a mouth mask because his parents do not want him to inhale any bacteria.”
They do not want to leave their country and their people. I have the highest respect for them.
“Yet, despite everything, the people here are very hospitable,” Simone says. “They wave at us and call out ‘Welcome!’ We got a fresh bun from the baker’s, to taste.”
“The aid workers and remaining citizens here are amazing people. They do not want to leave their country and their people. I have the highest respect for them. There are so many people who desperately need help.”
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