Diary from Syria: An Eyewitness Account of Broken Families, Grief and Survival

Dear Friends,

Arrived in Qamishly at 0400, after flying over pitch-dark central Syria, ISIS territory. After three hours of sleep in a noisy guestroom above the office, I had breakfast with the 30 WFP staff working here in this remote outpost, cut off by ISIS, and with no access to neighbouring Turkey and Iraq. Among the team, the stress shows here and there, the stories they hear from the people in the shelters and camps leave a mark. But they are committed, and deeply care about the people here.

Visited a food distribution site by one of our partners. Usually we support 275,000 people here but now there is no road access and we can only fly in enough for 55,000, so single women and widows with children, those who are internally displaced, orphans, elderly and disabled people are getting food this time. Talking to them about how they coped without our food for seven months, the answer: borrow from friends and family, sell whatever assets we have left, send my children to work on the fields to earn money, get by without eating any bread for months and so on.

We stop at a shelter for families who have fled from Deir Ezzor, the besieged city in the south where WFP has dropped food from high-altitude using parachutes every day since April. This shelter is in the remains of a housing project, half-finished since the war broke out. Windows all boarded up with bricks to avoid sniper attacks and to keep the cold or heat out. The shelter is run by one of our partners, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society. Dozens of families live in a three-storey apartment block, two families share one room. The few belongings they could take when they fled are piled neatly along the wall - I see a lonely doll sticking out of a bag. No food in the corner used as a kitchen, just cooking utensils.

Source: World Food Programme