Name: Zaid Al Ahmad
From: Rkaya village, southern Idlib
Now living in: Kfralousin, Syria-Turkey border
Zaid has a beautiful smile and looks filled with hope as he talks about his dreams.
“I dream of becoming a doctor, to make artificial limbs and provide them to children who were wounded in this war,” he says.
Zaid, his parents and young brothers used to live in Damascus, but at the start of the crisis they moved to a village near Idlib. A few weeks later, war planes began shelling the village. “We used to flee to the fields during the shelling and spend the night under olive trees,” recalls Zaid. “I was six years old when the warplane targeted our house with an explosive missile.”
Zaid remembers the moment the rocket landed and exploded just meters away from him. A fragment of the rocket killed his mother and injured Zaid’s right foot. His five-year-old brother Mohammed died instantly, and his sister escaped. Zaid was evacuated to the nearest hospital for treatment, and was then relocated to Assalam camp, near the city of Atma, northern Syria.
“I started to go to the camp school using the crutch, until one of the organizations gave me an artificial foot”, says Zaid. “I started to walk, so I felt like it had become a part of my body. I am now in fourth grade.
“I run and walk. I love it so much I cannot live without it. I love football a lot. I wish all the injured children of the camp have these artificial parts to help them move in order that they do not feel inferior to the rest of the children. I hope that this war will end so we can return to our village and we can live safely and peacefully.”
Originally from: Raqqa
Now living in: Darkush, northern Syria
Sumaya’s family fled the city of Raqqa when war broke out. “It was not easy,” says her father. “We moved from one place to another looking for the safety and security which we lost during this war. We didn’t know where we were heading. We took the road to the north with some displaced families until we reached one of the camps in Tell Abiadh. There was no electricity and no water, so we decided to move to somewhere more suitable.”
The family set off again, eventually arriving at a camp on the northern border, near Azaz. “It was summer, and very hot,” recalls Sumaya’s father. “It was not easy, we were very tired. Because of the lack of job opportunities and the difficulty of getting food, I had to find another place to move to.”
After a long and uncertain journey, the family reached Zinbq camp near Drakush, north of Idlib. Sumaya says: “I was playing in the camp yard with my friends, and suddenly we heard the sound of a plane in the sky. We quickly ran away from it.” Moments later she remembers “feeling like I was flying in the sky. I do not remember anything after that except that I woke up in a hospital nearby.”
Sumaya was wounded by shrapnel from a missile fired by the plane at the children of the camp and was in intensive care for several months. She had several operations, during which doctors removed the metal fragments that penetrated her back. The severity of her injuries meant that Sumaya could not walk, so her father arranged physiotherapy for her.
“Sumaya was referred to our physiotherapy center,” says the doctor overseeing her rehabilitation. “She had no desire for treatment, but after several sessions there were signs of response, and we began to feel her desire for treatment and healing.”
Eventually Sumaya was able to stand on her feet and walk a few steps. “Now I am able to return to my friends and play with them as I was before,” says Sumaya. “I dream of living in a safe place away from the bombing of warplanes. I am afraid of them very much. I hope that I grow up and become a doctor at one of the physiotherapy centers, to help the children who were injured in this war.”
“Our life was so beautiful before the war, before the airplane came and bombed our house,” recalls Fatema. “I was with my family at home. Suddenly, several rockets fell on our village. A large part of our house collapsed but we managed to escape. The situation was very hard. I escaped with my children and my sick husband, seeking a safe place away from shelling and bombing.”
Fatema and her family moved to the countryside of western Aleppo, to Kafar Hamra, but could only afford to stay there for a few months because they ran out of money to rent a house. Now they live in Shamiku, also in western Aleppo. “We live in this partially demolished house. There are no doors and no windows that protect us from winds in winter,” says Fatema. “We put up worn blankets instead of doors.
“My husband has suffered from mental illness since the beginning of the crisis, and he cannot work. We do not know if there is any treatment for him outside Syria, but he needs medicine to help him relax and ease the stress. Two of my children need milk and diapers on a daily basis. I give them some tea instead of milk. We live on the aid that has been provided for us on a monthly basis, but now there is no more aid and food assistance has dropped dramatically in the region.
“My children need food and drink, and I cannot meet their basic needs because of the war. We sit on these torn mats and make fires with wood from the trees and plastic waste. My children are permanently coughing because of the smell of burning plastic. Every day, I go with my son Mohammed to look for mallow to sell and earn some money to buy what my children need – especially bread and bulgur.
“We had no electricity for more than five years and the water is unhealthy and not good for drinking. We use candles instead of electricity. We use the oil and a piece of paper in a small cup to light the room for my children. We suffer a lot in winter and the cold is very severe. There are not enough blankets and firewood to keep us warm in this harsh winter. My children go out every morning to look for branches and they walk in the streets without shoes. We are suffering from instability and insecurity and are under constant threat of shelling.