Everyday life in the Syrian battlefieldMore than 6 million people are displaced inside Syria. The constant battle to find a protected place of refuge from ongoing falling mortars, and the daily struggle to meet basic needs in a country where food prices have more than doubled since onset of the crisis, and where more than 85 per cent of the country’s population are now living under the poverty line.
For those still earning an income, recent figures put the average monthly income of 30,000 lira, equivalent to only USD 100, compared to USD 600 per month pre-crisis such is the fall in value of the local currency. The Syrian pound today is less than 20 per cent of the value it held five years ago. Basic commodities such as rice, flour, petrol are all strictly rationed.
“We used to have a life”,” said Mahmoud, 57, a displaced Syrian now living in Damascus. The softly spoken man once owned a textile factory in the now besieged Yarmouk camp. It employed 15 workers.
“We used to export our products to other countries like Spain and Kuwait. I had great plans and there was opportunity to develop my work,” he recounts. “All that seems like a past dream now.” Trying to pay to keep a roof over his family’s heads and meeting food costs, are now part of the daily reality.
While this story could be any one of the 6.5 million Syrians currently internally displaced persons (IDPs) within the war-ridden country, hope is starting to return to Mahmoud’s world.
Recently, Mahmoud with support from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), opened a small sewing workshop in Al-Maydan in the Damascus governorate, as part of a joint business initiative and resilience program DRC runs with Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) organisation. All equipment and furnishing payments met as part of the project.
“Although I used to make much more money as a factory owner, the money I make from this workshop is pivotal for my family survival” says Mahmoud, who said he tried several times to get work in sewing workshops, but was passed over for younger candidates.
With over 30 years of experience, Mahmoud has also become an asset to DRC, throwing himself into training other IDPs in the field of textiles in his new sewing office.
As more Syrians seek out means to make a living for themselves, DRC’s income generating program is becoming increasingly popular.
For 37-year old Waffa, from Jaramana in rural Damascus, also a recent beneficiary, the assistance to set up her own cosmetics business has brought not only financial means to live off, but a much needed boost to her self confidence.
“I am glad I no longer have to depend on the charities. Now I can regain back my dignity and hope for better days ahead,” said Waffa.
Since October 2014 DRC-Syria with support from DFID has helped more than 750 Syrians in Damascus and rural Damascus with vocational training, internships and micro grants. In Homs and Dara’a, some 154 Syrians have been involved in DANIDA supported business incubation program.
DRC is the largest international NGO operating in Syria, concentrating on distribution of emergency required non-food items, shelter and rehabilitation of schools, psycho-social, support, education, livelihood and mine risk education activities. It operates in five governorates; Damascus, rural Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Dara’a.