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Syria Humanitarian Fund: “A small rock supporting a cliff”

08 Jul 2019

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"It’s hard to get by, our means are limited and the cost of living is high”, Adel says. He is 78. Him and his family have been displaced multiple times in past years, due to intense fighting. This year, it is estimated that close to 12 million people within Syria will need humanitarian assistance. Photo: OCHA/H. Halldorsson


Story and photos by Hedinn Halldorsson, OCHA

“My hearing is damaged because of all the shelling and the bombing,” Adel says. At the UNRWA’s compound in Damascus, he is standing in line with dozens of people, patiently waiting for his turn.

The place is a cash distribution point for vulnerable Palestine refugees, but it really feels more like a train station. The office is bustling, the crowd is growing in numbers by the minute, and the temperature is rising. Tellers in eight glass cubicles register those that have come to pick up their financial support, check their identity cards and hand out the exact amount in this distribution round.

“I was born in 1941 and I have two daughters, a son and four grandchildren. We’ve been displaced several times. We lived in Yarmouk, then in Madamiya. I retired in 2014, but I have worked my entire life”. Adel tells me he was a business administrator, then a sports teacher at an UNRWA school, an Arabic and English teacher, and even a TV producer and a professional boxer. “Because of my previous jobs, I get a monthly pension of 50 USD. My wife who used to be a head teacher gets a pension too, but we’re struggling. That’s why I’m here. We have a large family to support and we barely managed to bring food to the table.”

8 in 10 people live in poverty


“The cash assistance does help, but it is also a drop in the ocean,” Adel says. “It’s like a small rock supporting a cliff." Credit: OCHA/H. Halldorsson

The cash assistance provided through the Syria Humanitarian Fund makes the difference for many like Adel who is struggling to survive because of Syria’s economy, which has forced more than 8 in 10 people below poverty line.

The amount that each person receives through the project is 23 USD, and there are distribution rounds every two to four months. “The cash assistance does help but it is also a drop in the ocean,” Adel says. “It’s like a small rock supporting a cliff. But I am grateful I am receiving this. Without this money I wouldn’t know how to feed my family.”

The crisis in Syria, now in its 9th year has exacted a heavy toll on its people. Still to this day, large-scale displacement is its defining feature. Half of Syria’s population is in Adel’s steps, having had to relocate for safety, often multiple times. People’s resources are depleted, and in many cases, the level of deprivation has become chronic.

It is estimated that this year, 11.7 million people within Syria will need humanitarian assistance. The mandate of the Syria Humanitarian Fund is to meet the most pressing needs of people like Adel, weakened by years of conflict and deprivation. The Fund identifies under-served sectors, particularly impacted by the conflict, and through the best placed implementing partners like UNRWA, brings relief directly to those who need it the most.