Syria

Creating job opportunities can help Syrians escape a life-time of aid dependence

It is a killer which does not fall from the sky nor arrive from the barrel of a gun but has spread insidiously throughout the villages and plains of Syria. Barely attracting more than a glance from international journalists, Syria’s livelihoods crisis remains arguably the most important factor keeping Syrians dependent on humanitarian assistance.

To understand more about the impact of this crisis, we spoke to Ibrahim, a Syrian from Aleppo who now works supervising a team under the PIN´s Cash for Work program. Ibrahim´s team helps to rebuild and maintain the streets of his town in Aleppo governorates. They contribute to the recovery of the town and improve the living conditions of the people who live there. As a supervisor, he takes care of the quality and efficiency of ongoing work.

"We cleared the garbage and debris that had remained there after the shelling, so we opened the streets buried under rubble again. The town is now cleaner and more beautiful," said Ibrahim about the impact of PIN's project.

Together with his family, Ibrahim was twice forced to flee fighting. "It was mentally exhausting to leave my home, and at the same time, I feared for my children. We left the town during the airstrikes. It was tragic," he said.

"It was winter, and it was too cold for the kids. At that time, they started trembling. Not from cold but from fear. And they still have these horrifying memories," said Ibrahim.

"My children started trembling. Not from cold, but fear."

According to Ibrahim, the biggest changes in day-to-day life since the start of the conflict are obvious: an increase in the cost of living and the drying up of job opportunities. Ibrahim appreciates PIN's cash-for-work project because it enables him to receive support in a dignified way.

"The prices are too high, and they are still soaring up. But thanks to this project from PIN, I had a job, and I could secure all the necessities for my family. I could buy food and heating materials for the winter, and medicine for my children. The project also helped me mentally and it had a great impact on the town," said Ibrahim.

According to REACH's Humanitarian Needs Assessment, 79% of residents in northwest Syria said that finding work was their first priority.

"I am doing something good for society"

Asma shares a similar experience to Ibrahim and millions of other Syrians, having been displaced into a number of different camps during different rounds of fighting. Such precarity made working a steady job basically impossible for the family.

Asma spoke to us about her work before the war: "I loved sewing. I had a small sewing machine and loved making and repairing clothes. I made a living for the whole family," she said. Asma could not carry her sewing machine with her when she and her family fled, subsequently Asma's grown sons used to work in factories, but: "All of them were destroyed. Now my sons work when anything is available."

When Asma found out that PIN was looking for seamstresses at the camp to sew school uniforms she immediately signed up: “PIN encourages children to go to school, and the team provides them with these uniforms. I like it because I am doing something good for society. And my grandson goes to the school supported by PIN,” said Asma.

She is happy that her family is currently safe from immediate dangers and that she was able to get back on her feet in terms of employment. Alas, her memories from the war continue to haunt her: "The war has changed everything. One of my sons was seriously injured by a sniper; he lost his ability to speak. My other son was shot and lost part of his leg. And I lost my brother. The war has also had a devastating impact on schools and learning. Fear affected people's lives. We are scared when we hear the sound of warplanes or rockets."

Over 90% of the population in Syria lives below the poverty line

According to the latest information from ECHO, about 14.6 million people inside Syria require humanitarian assistance, and almost two-thirds of the population are expected to face food shortages in 2022. The erosion of quality livelihood opportunities prevents the over 90% of the population living below the poverty line from breaking their dependence on aid. It also presents a clear disincentive to those desperate to leave IDP camps and informal settlements, knowing that if they return home they will have no way of financially sustaining their families. There is a near-total consensus across the aid community in Syria that only through securing longer-term funding for early-recovery/stabilisation projects can we begin to address these challenges and offer Syrians an escape from their aid dependence limbo.

Our support of Ibrahim's family would not be possible without generous funding from USAID. Thanks to this funding, People in Need can continue supporting vulnerable families in northern Syria.