Water, Food and Fuel – a luxury for displaced Syrians like Talal*

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

I left my life behind; we ran away to northern Syria. My children went through so much, they have seen too much suffering and it breaks my heart to see them like this,”  Talal*, father of five children from Northwest Syria

The 10-year ongoing Syrian conflict has caused many vital services to stop. Syrians are struggling to put food on their tables, fill a glass of water, enroll their children in schools, and power their barely standing homes. One of the most affected sectors in Syria is water and sanitation which puts everyone and everything at risk; Syrians also have up to 40 percent less drinking water now [1] than before the war. As one of the largest water,  sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) aid agencies in Northwest Syria, World Vision has worked continuously to make sure everyone has access to clean water and sanitary conditions despite the challenges millions have to face due to displacement. It provides safe water to Syrians in internally displaced camps and the refugee camps in neighbouring countries.  

A Shocking Reality for Talal 

Although 47-year-old Talal never imagined that water will be a luxury as it was always available since he was a small boy, everything changed when the war broke out. The escalation of the war in Syria forced the family of seven to abandon their home just to live another day. He had to leave his own shop that provided the stability his family needs. Talal once was able to put food on his family's table and enroll his children in school but no longer can. “I used to own a shoe shop, but when the shelling and airstrikes started, I had to prioritise my family’s safety and leave my main source of income behind,” sadly explains Talal. 

The 80-kilometer journey from a home equipped with all living necessities and running water, to a tent that barely shields them from rain was unfathomable. “The hardest thing is when it rains, it becomes freezing and water seeps into our little tent,” shares Talal with a lot of sorrow in his eyes. Their first displacement journey was a close one to home; but it did not provide much safety. After settling there for three years, the shelling was frequent enough to force the family to flee again. There, it was not safe either. Three months later, they decided it is again time to seek a safer place. After four displacement journeys of trying to find a safe place and shelter, the family finally set their tent on a farming land in northern Syria along with 100 other families. This was the only place they could find; but they did not know that setting up a tent on a farming land means that all of the accumulated water during the winter season, floods their tent. 

Talal vividly remembers when they first settled on this land; there were tens of families, all forced to live in unfinished buildings and tents. Soon after they arrived, winter started and drinkable water was even harder to secure; the water tank could not even make its way to the unfinished buildings or the tents where families found shelter. This made Talal feel frustrated and sad; he had a family of seven, and it was difficult for him to meet his family’s needs. He saw no solution but to bear the cold wind, and the harsh conditions. There was nowhere else to go to. 

Every single winter day, Talal’s heart also got shivering cold when he saw the struggle his family went  through- you saw him either praying for his children not to get sick, or for having clean water to avoid any disease. He had to walk long distances just to fill a tank of water; and even that was not enough. Even if water was available, it was too expensive for many Syrians, like Talal. He remembers how they had to cut down on their water consumption, especially when it came to washing their children’s clothes or taking a shower. It was his worst nightmare than he never even dreamt of. But hope never left Talal’s side.  

Water is made available 

Since World Vision’s local partner started providing sterilized water every single day in the camp where Talal and his family live, they have one less thing to worry about. Talal’s children feel happy and relieved that having water is not an issue anymore. “Our father does not have to go to great lengths to bring us water anymore,” Talal’s children happily share. His family recalls how the first thing Talal did when water was provided at their place: “He kept looking at the working faucet and our water tank,” Talal’s son said. 

6,000 other Syrians displaced in the northern parts of Syria and living in six of the internally displacement camps, have gone through the same situation as Talal. Instead of a tent, there were nights and days when they felt like they were on a ship sailing the muddy waters of displacement. The good thing for them is that they do not have to worry about the freezing winter nights. This is the least the aid agencies like World Vision and its partners, could do - providing Talal and 1,600 other families with money for heating fuel. Talal can now provide for his family and put food on the dinner table in a warmer environment.  

Hopes for the Future  

What Talal needs is not only food and water. He also wants to build a better life for his children; and a better life starts with learning and being able to send his children at school. “Unfortunately, there are no schools or learning centres near the displacement camp, and I also do not have enough money to enrol my children in school,” mentions Talal. But he is still hoping that a school will be set up near the camp where they live. Talal and the other residents of the camp hope there will be at least one classroom set up, with a teacher and all those children need for continuing their education. Maybe one day, his dream of enrolling his children in school will come true. For now, he does not have the money to send them to the school that is three km away from where they live.  

Many internally displaced Syrians like Talal are unemployed at the camp and cannot provide more than what they already have. Talal is unemployed and mindful of every penny he spends. “I have worked so hard to find a job, and even when I found one, the pay was not enough to meet my family’s needs,” shares Talal. The reality is that most of the job opportunities available, are only covering pennies of their actual needs. To make his life a little easier, World Vision’s partner in northwest of Syria, provided 21,000 health and food baskets to internally displaced Syrians like Talal. 

After all, Talal is grateful for the clean environment, the food he can share with the family which makes his family feel safer and a bit more at ease with the situation. But he wishes that one day it will be safe enough for him, his family, and every other internally displaced Syrian to go back home. He wants to reopen his business, put food on his table from his own hard-earned money. He also wishes that the services provided at the camp will be improved and continue to be made available for all of them.  

About the project  

The water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) project funded by the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and implemented through our local partners in Northern Syria. It provides solid waste management services and sewage water draining. The nine-month long project also distributed 21,000 health and food baskets for almost 8,000 families settling in 37 internally displacement camps.


[1] https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/syria-water-crisis-40-less-drinking-water-after-10-years-war


* Name is changed to protect identity