Rebuilding your life after the earthquake: the story of Duha

© Hasan Belal for the DEC and Action Against Hunger

However, obstacles increased when the earthquake struck. The main challenge was the high level of poverty of the population. “ It is true that before, we already had very little means, but with the earthquake, we became poor. Not just our family, but all families. There are women who have lost their husbands. Today there are many widows. And many children were mutilated. »

The Abulkasem alShabi shelter was originally a school. In the first days, Duha and her four children therefore did not have access to many basic services. There were not enough toilets, not enough showers and no lights, because since the war there had been no electricity in the Hanano district. “ We were 210 families for only five bathrooms without showers. We couldn’t shower for 15 days », says Duha.

One day, organizations came to the shelter and began to intervene. Action Against Hunger technical teams installed new toilets, new running water taps and prefabricated showers. They built toilets and bathrooms until there were enough for everyone. They built three bathrooms on each floor, nine in total. They installed solar panels. “ For us, it was a big step forward. Before that, we were afraid to walk here at night, because the courtyard is very big and very dark. We used our cell phones for lighting. Now, thanks to the solar energy system, we have access to electricity and hot water. It almost seems like life has returned to normal and we have a home again. »

Additionally, the shelter was very busy. The first weeks, 10 to 15 families lived in the same room, without any privacy. Action Against Hunger divided the rooms so that each family had their own space, with lockers and light, which offered some privacy to the displaced individuals and families.


© Hasan Belal for the DEC and Action Against Hunger

Duha’s twin sons were preparing for their baccalaureate and entering university when they were forced to abandon their home due to the earthquake. “When we arrived here, there were about 1,200 people. There was a lot of noise. But thank God they both graduated. My son was able to enter chemistry school and my daughter is studying psychology. The results made us smile again, although I also cried a lot remembering their father, who passed away about a year ago. I wish he had been by my side at that time,” she says. When they heard the news, Duha and her children went to the cemetery to tell their father. In Syria, having your baccalaureate is considered very important.

She and her husband worked very hard so that their children could go to college. Their children too, who managed to obtain good grades in very complicated circumstances: first the death of their father, then the earthquake and the displacement. Duha’s son has big ambitions. She says that he is not satisfied with his grade and that he would like to retake his baccalaureate to enter medical school and become a neurologist. This is something that worries him, because it could cost them a lot of money, the situation in schools having greatly worsened during the war. Many teachers have left the country or died. Today, most teachers lack experience.

SY_2023_TEST_Duha_Hasan Belal DEC6-min
© Hasan Belal for the DEC and Action Against Hunger

Now our main problem is that we cannot go home. Our house was destroyed. Soon we will have to leave the shelter, which will have to be used as a school again. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We are supposed to receive between 3 and 4 million Syrian pounds to be able to rent another place. But what will become of us next? » This is the question that Duha and many others are asking themselves about the future that awaits them from the end of November, when the shelter will be evacuated.

The family needs more money than they have to survive. Her children absolutely need food and clothing. The intervention of the organizations was vital at the beginning, when they distributed food, hot meals, sandwiches, etc. But over time, this support has diminished. “ At times the situation gets worse. I can’t even afford to pay for my children’s breakfast. As winter approaches, we also need money for college registrations, transportation, mats and fuel. »

And now ? I don’t really have any expectations anymore. I just hope that we will be able to have our own house soon and that my children will be able to continue their education. Here at the shelter, they cannot study properly. It’s not a real house. » Today, Duha’s priority is finding a home for her family, continuing to move forward and helping her children achieve their goals. “ Seeing them succeed, graduate from college, get married and have children is my greatest goal in life. »

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