A grandmother’s tale: Escape from SyriaTears form when Mona, 60, thinks about her life in the rural Syrian village she had lived in her entire life. She has not seen or heard from her eldest son since April 2014 when he disappeared from their village in Tal Maleed, North Country side of Aleppo. His three children, aged three, four and five are now her responsibility. The eldest is disabled and unable to walk. So too is her husband, 67 years of age; blind, mentally and physically made handicapped after suffering a massive heart attack and stroke during a night sheltering from heavy bombardment in Syria.
Aside from the clothes she wore the night she made the frightening crossing into Turkey, she does not have a single possession from her life in Syria. She cannot even speak the same language as those in her new country of refuge.
Each day she said has been a battle for survival since war broke out in Syria. Getting her family to safety in Turkey, trying to find refuge and a means to live, now her only focus. She no longer allows herself to dream about being able to return home to Syria.
Mona and her family were living in a public park and reliant on food handouts when the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) found her December 9, 2014. Having used all her meager savings to pay someone to drive her to the Turkish border so her husband could lie in the back of the car and grandchildren children would not have to make a journey that so many must do on foot, Mona did not have a cent when she finally arrived in Turkey.
Through the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) funded DRC-Turkey Special Needs Fund (SNF), Mona has been given support to pay for medical treatment for her grandchildren and husband, blankets and basic home items, hygiene kits and been assisted to find a safe roof for her family’s head. Paying the US150/month rent remains a struggle. Her second son joined the family from Syria earlier this year. He collects rubbish on the street and recycles it. This has covered the rent to date.
The funds enabled Mona to also buy her husband a wheelchair. After four years being bound to a bed, he is now mobile.
“You can lose hope when you are alone. DRC has kept that in me,” Mona says.
The SNF fund is open to referral from agencies seeks to help those most vulnerable and ones that can often fall out of the help system. It specifically targets people with disabilities, women and children and risk, the elderly, single-male households and large families hosting other Syrian families. Once families have been assisted, follow-up home visits are an important part of the program.
From October 2014 to May 2015, the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) has supported over 1000 Syrian households in southern Turkey, providing direct assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees displaced by the ongoing conflict.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.