The Women of Syria Are Hungry for Food and Change
It’s been a decade since the conflict in Syria first began, and today families are hanging on by a thread. 12.4 million are hungry and another 6.7 million are displaced from their homes within Syria’s borders. Millions more are refugees who’ve fled to neighboring countries. With no end to the crisis in sight and the onset of COVID-19 creating new health and economic threats, the situation has become even more desperate – especially for women and girls.
For ten years of conflict, we are taking a look at the harrowing stories of ten Syrian women and girls who are doing whatever it takes to survive each day.
In 2018, when Siba was just a newborn, an outbreak of conflict forced her family to flee their home with only the clothing on their backs. Within the first few months of arriving in their new home of Tartous, Siba’s health quickly declined, and she became malnourished. “She needed milk, but we can’t afford milk for her,” Siba’s mother Um Mohammed explained. Fortunately, with the help of United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) supplementary feeding programs, Siba’s health has improved over the last 18 months.
90-year-old Om Amjad used to live in Tadamoun until violent conflict took the life of her eldest son and her husband passed away from a heart attack. Left with no source of income, Om and her remaining family have taken shelter in 100-year-old stone houses that are unsafe for living in.
A decade after the conflict began in Syria, civilians like Om Amjad and her family continue to withstand the worst of the war’s devastating effects. “God bless you for standing by the affected Syrian families all these years. God knows how bad our situation is, and surely there are even worse cases,” Om Amjad said to U.N. World Food Programme staff.
Seven-year-old May smiles while taking a big bite of her cheese sandwich, one of the nutritious meals we provide for schoolchildren across Syria.
In recent years, teachers have reported steadier school enrollment that they attribute in part to these daily fresh meals. These meals not only provide the proper nutrition to schoolchildren but also relief to Syrian parents by eliminating the financial burden.
With the conflict still raging in Syria after 10 years and food prices skyrocketing, it’s no mystery why many families are unable to afford their basic needs. And children like four-year-old Selina are paying the price.
Selina began receiving treatment from us for severe malnutrition when she was one year old and has only just recovered. Her 18-month-old sister Minissa is still relying on these treatments to survive.
In the summer of 2015, a mortar hit the street pavement next to Ramia. Struck by a piece of loose shrapnel, she lost sight in one eye and could no longer work her job as a housecleaner. After her injury, she became almost entirely dependent upon U.N. World Food Programme food assistance.
Manar Barsha was just three years old when ISIS occupied her family’s village in northern Aleppo, forcing them to flee for the port city of Lattakia. A hard-worker and dedicated to her studies, Manar’s dream of becoming a teacher is closer to reality now that she can attend school safely. Today she participates in one of our after-school programs, and Manar’s family receives a $23-dollar voucher that helps pay for almost half of their monthly food needs.
Lina Al Ghadban
Civil war has all but destroyed the tradition of beekeeping that is at the heart of so many rural Syrian communities. In 2014, Lina’s family was forced to flee their home for six months due to nearby fighting. Upon her return, she found that nine of their beehives were dead. Lina is now part of our beekeeping project and uses the honey feed her children Khider, Ibrahim and Adam, and sells the surplus to earn an income.
Little Ghada, tenderly holding her stuffed animal, represents generations of children born inside a youth camp in Swaida, Syria. A summer-camp-turned-shelter, it hosted 2,100 internally displaced people at the time this photo was taken in 2016.
Women and children make up more than two-thirds of the 6.7 million Syrians who are displaced within their own country’s borders. Over the last decade, they have been beacons of resilience but are in desperate need of help as the war and pandemic rage on.
Badiea Ahmad Saad
Badiea is a mother of four: two boys and two girls. Her husband has struggled to find a steady job and barely makes enough money to feed his family. Their youngest child, Khaled, was born weighing only four pounds. But because of our food vouchers, Badiea can go to the store and afford nutritious food for her young children.
Randa Higazi, a participant in one of our kitchen gardens programs, holds up a few peppers she has grown.
In 2017, we started a new project to empower women and strengthen their food security through these small “kitchen gardens.” Such resilience programming equips women with tools for self-sufficiency, primarily by growing their own fruits and vegetables and selling them to make an income.
The U.N. World Food Programme is working around the clock to support vulnerable women and girls in their fight against hunger. With support from readers like you, we can continue to keep girls like Manar in school, provide critical food assistance to malnourished children like Siba and support mothers like Badiea in caring for their families.
Learn more about our programs with women and girls here, and donate here to be part of this lifesaving work.