Syria: “My youngest son is as old as the war”

 Emergency Response
 8th Mar 2019

Wearing a velvet dress and a red keffiyeh, Mariam* sits next to the only cupboard in the small room in which she lives with her four children.  She remembers the horrors she lived through since the war in Syria started eight years ago. “Two months before the war started, my husband had a heart attack and died. I was heavily pregnant at the time and gave birth to my son Mahmoud when the conflict started. He is turning eight now, like the war.” Mariam was all by herself, struggling to survive and make ends meet, as a mother of four children. They did not have any money and Mariam started working on a farm. She became the sole caregiver and breadwinner in her family.

Mariam on the farm where she works. Credit:Abdullah Hammam/Syria Resilience Consortium.

“I started taking Mahmoud with me to the field when he was only a few weeks old. He used to cry so much, and I was scared that the owner of the farm would let go of me,” Mariam recalls. She had to take her eldest daughter out of school so she could take care of her baby brother while Mariam was working.  “It was so hard for me, but I did not have a choice. I would wrap him in a piece of fabric and leave him with my daughter. When he cried, I would quickly breastfeed him. I prayed that the owner of the farm would not see me.”  Mariam lived under the constant fear that she would be fired and lose her family’s source of income.

“How else would we have survived?  I can endure hunger, but my children can’t”, she says. Today, her oldest daughter works with her on the farm to help provide for the family. Mariam’s other children now stay at home as well, after their school was bombed. “It makes me very sad. My older son can’t even read or write. If he sees a sign on the road, he has to ask his sister to read it for him”, she says. “Every person should have a happy childhood. It matters for our future. And I feel so sad that I am unable to give this to my children”.


Mariam with her children in the small room where they live. Credit:Abdullah Hammam/Syria Resilience Consortium.

Mariam’s work in the farm is hard. She earns the equivalent of 20 US cents per day – barely enough for her and her children to survive. When she heard about CARE’s support for widows as part of the Syria Resilience Consortium, she immediately applied. “When we received the sheep, my children and I were very happy. We had nothing at all. This meant so much to us. One of the sheep was even pregnant,” she recalls.

Mariam does not have to go and buy milk anymore. The sheep give enough milk for her and her children. In the spring, Mariam plans to shear the sheep and make pillows and mattresses. This will help her earn some extra money.

“My only hope for the future is that my children will have a better life. I hope that we will live somewhere where we don’t have to do everything in one small room. More than anything, I hope that my children can go back to school and live the life they deserve.”

Read more about CARE's work in Syria.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.

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