Zakiya [on the right] and her daughters wait for transportation to help them carry food rations during a WFP food distribution in Adra Al Omaleya, Rural Damascus, in early December. (Copyright: WFP/Dina El-Kassaby)
When conflict spread to the northern Syrian province of Aleppo last winter, it destroyed almost everything in its path -- including the rural town where Zakiya’s home once stood. Zakiya has been on the move ever since, constantly running from a conflict that keeps finding her. Early this month she had to move again.
Adra Al Omaleya, RURAL DAMASCUS – Home to medieval architecture, traditional souks, mosques and churches, Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. But after almost three years of conflict in Syria, it has come to resemble a ghost town.
While Syrians once migrated to the thriving city in search of job opportunities in textiles, manufacturing and tourism, they now run for their lives, leaving its streets desolate.
One year ago, Zakiya and her three daughters fled to Lattakia along with waves of people from neighbouring towns and villages, each carrying little more than the clothes on their backs. The men stayed behind to look after their property and the elders who were too weak to leave.
“It was a matter of life or death the day we fled; we could hear the fighting approaching our area quickly and we had to run; we had no choice,” she told WFP staff in early December. “I only had time to collect some cash and it was barely enough to cover our transport to Lattakia, let alone to buy bread and water to survive.”
Recalling their journey through cold deserts, fields and little-used roads, Zakiya explained that her biggest burden was uncertainty. She was worried about the health of her pregnant daughter Amal, the relatives they left behind and where their next meal would come from. One of her chief concerns was whether she would ever find a place to call home again.
On the run again
Zakiya has yet to find such a place. She and her daughters fled Lattakia to settle in a makeshift tented village in Homs. But only weeks later they were on the run again, and finally reached Adra Al Omaleya in Rural Damascus, where thousands like them have sought refuge.
“It was a like a nightmare where you’re trying to run away from something that is faster than you and you’re losing strength with each step you take,” she explained.
Thousands of families have settled in unfinished buildings in Adra Al Omaleya, a low-income development of the town of Adra, east of Damascus. WFP is distributing food rations to displaced families there. Without the aid, they wouldn’t be able to meet their food needs. The rations contain staple food items like wheat flour, rice, bulgur wheat and canned food.
Zakiya says that some safety and normalcy have finally returned to their lives in Adra Al Omaleya, and the birth of her granddaughter Salwa (Arabic for consolation) has brought a ray of hope into her family’s life.
“Now home is where Salwa is,” she said as she bounces her nine-month-old granddaughter on her knee.
This month, intense fighting spread to Adra Al Omaleya, forcing thousands of families to flee yet again. Zakiya was among them and her whereabouts are unclear. The hope is that she managed to find a safe place for Salwa, a place that at least for now she can call home.
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