Winter in Syria, from a voice on the ground
What is it like to serve in Syria right now, when winter brings freezing temperatures and heavy flooding, COVID‑19 is on the rise, and political conflict limits the transport of humanitarian aid in the places that need it most?
Mercy Corps’ regional teams throughout Syria have been hard at work preparing for this brutal season for many months. Winterization efforts include building essential “WASH” (water, sanitation and hygiene) systems, gravelling roads and preparing “NFI” kits (non-food items) — like tarps, blankets, fuel, hygiene supplies — for new arrivals.
Most of Mercy Corps’ global team members are from the countries in which they serve. More than three quarters of those working in Syria are themselves displaced from their homes. One Syrian team member, whose identity cannot be shared due to security risks, describes their experience. In order to honor this team member’s voice, their language is unaltered:
“To work in the humanitarian field inside a country like Syria, you have to work heart and soul. We can't separate our senses from our surroundings.”
“When I get into camps, I smell clearly coal, waste and wood burning. These smells affect these people's lives but they would not be compared to the smell of death that they suffered from when they left their homes.”
“In Syria we lose sometimes the taste of food and life but we can't lose the taste of giving that sweetens our life.”
“Those sounds of rain falling at night that bring tranquility for every human being on earth will not let me forget that they cause great pain for people living in camps.”
“What we see can't pass in front of our eyes easily. These pictures keep in my mind, making contradictory feelings. That scene of a child walking barefoot affects my soul harshly but that smile we make on his face after every distribution [of food and supplies] gives me some peace.”
“Thanking words from people living there brings peace into my ear, heart and soul.”
“To see the sufferings of my own people and to be able to help them keeps me having this contradictory life. Humanitarian work in Syria links my feelings of happiness and sadness to how much we might give and help.”
The best of the humanitarian spirit
We deeply appreciate the work and words of this team member. Northwest Syria Director Max Baldwin echos: “The colleagues who I work alongside in the field, they are affected the same as the families that we are serving. They have been displaced too by the war, all of the colleagues. They have lost family members in the war too. And when it is cold, freezing, snowing, when there is still a COVID pandemic in the area, they are still in the field every day representing Mercy Corps and serving the population. They all show the best of the humanitarian spirit.”
This winter, COVID‑19 makes our work in Syria much more challenging, and more crucial, than ever before. The expertise and compassion of our global teams, in combination with our supporter community’s generosity and willingness to take action, mean that we can continue to make a difference for the people of Syria in urgent need.