When the bombing destroyed the medical centre, the school and many of the homes in her village of Al-Tah in Idlib, Umm Walid decided it was time to make a run for it.
Like so many other people in the Northwest region of Syria, the increased threat of violence in early 2020 forced her to leave her home. Umm Walid, her five children, and other families from Al-Tah decided to leave at night, trying to use the darkness as cover from the artillery shells that fell around them. One of the families travelling with them got hit and didn’t make it.
Umm Walid remembers wishing she could do more, but all she could do was to press on with her children.
“We arrived at one of the camps. It was raining, and mud was everywhere,” says Umm Walid. “We did not find a tent to go to.”
Umm Walid and her children were taken in temporarily by another family at the camp.
The displacement camps in Syria are crowded, unsanitary and unsafe, especially for women. There are no opportunities for work, or any real way to provide for a family. Most people are living in extreme poverty and going without the basic necessities, like the tents, blankets and mattresses needed to survive the harsh winters. Many people in the camps have been displaced more than once.
The first few days at the camp were the hardest. Trying to keep her children safe on her own, Walid really felt the loss of her husband, who had been hit by shrapnel and died several years earlier.
“These were very rough days. I can never forget them,” says Umm Walid. “I was happy because I escaped death, but I was very sad because I left my house and my village forever.”
Since conflict erupted in March 2011, Syria has become the largest displacement crisis globally. Over 250,000 civilians have been killed in escalating violence. Five million Syrians have already fled the country. Another 6 million and counting remain displaced within its borders, either homeless, on the move, or taking shelter in camps.
Thanks to Humanitarian Coalition donors and member agency Islamic Relief, Umm Walid and her family now have a new tent of their own -- one that will keep out the rainwater that could ruin the mattresses.
She says she is grateful to Islamic Relief in Syria.
“We are very pleased with the tents, insulation sheets and mattresses you brought to us. It is great for us,” says Umm Walid.
“We are people who have lost everything.”