Ten years of conflict have taken its toll on the people of Syria, shattering the lives of millions and forcing 13 million people into displacement.
The situation has only been getting worse. A deep economic crisis, currency depreciation, the vanishing of livelihoods and now COVID-19 are hitting the country’s vulnerable population hard leaving millions struggling to access their most basic needs. An estimated 90 per cent of the population now lives below the poverty line and 12.4 million are food insecure, an increase of 4.5 million from last year.
This is the story of Rima, a 26-year-old woman living in Damascus.
Even though Rima and her husband live with her in-laws, they are still struggling to make ends meet. Her husband, who works in carpentry, had to close his workshop when he was no longer able to afford rent. They now depend on Rima’s income from her salon. Almost a year ago, Rima received a small business grant from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), which allowed her to open her beauty salon and up until April 2020, Rima was doing well.
The pandemic has not only affected the health of the people in Syria, it has also taken a toll on their livelihoods. And on top of that, the country has been facing an economic crisis with the Syrian Pound now reaching a record low.
Food prices have reached their highest ever since the conflict started, leaving more and more families, including Rima’s, unable to afford food and having to resort to negative coping mechanisms to survive.
“Our lives have completely changed. With no income, we cannot even afford food. I have been asking my mother and sister for bread to feed my children,” she says.
“We had no savings, but at least we did not need anyone. Now, Debt has become our only option.”
One in ten families have to rely on their children working to make ends meet. Rima's oldest child has now started working to help put food on the table.
While the Syrian government has eased down on COVID-19-restrictions, the already vulnerable population continues to carry the brunt of months of lockdowns and restrictions, which are taking a mental toll on the people.
For vulnerable families in Syria, the elevated levels of anxiety and depression stem from not only the fear of the virus itself but also from the fear of losing their already unstable sources of income.
“We are always on edge when leaving the house, but we need to work - It has all been mentally exhausting,” Rima says.
Rima also worries that the healthcare system, already heavily damaged from years of conflict, will not be able to meet the needs of the people. However, Rima and her family are following protective measures to stay safe.
“What makes things better is that we are very responsible. Masks and protective gear are available everywhere you go,” she says.
A decade of conflict has had a staggering impact on Syrian families. Ultimately, a political solution to the conflict is the only viable path to end the suffering of millions of Syrians once and for all.
“Syria is our home – I do not want my children to be forced out of their home just to be able to have a decent life,” Rima says.