Humanitarian crisis in Idlib: Fadi’s story

Mar 12, 2020
“I was hit by an airstrike and got injured,” says Fadi*. The fifteen-year-old fled Idlib three months ago with his mother, two brothers and two sisters. His father passed away five years earlier from a stroke.

“We were up late one night and out of nowhere the bombing started,” he says. 

The airstrikes destroyed his home and the homes of his neighbours. That’s when he lost his right arm. 
“I felt my arm come off and the blood was gushing out of it,” Fadi says.

He was rushed to one of the few hospitals still operating in the region and the medical staff there saved his life.

With no home to return to, Fadi and his family made their way to one of the growing displacement camps north of the city.

Watch Fadi tell his story in this video: 

Video: World Vision in partnership with Syria Relief and Development (SRD)

Nearly one million people have been forced to flee their homes in Idlib, northern Syria, since December 2019. More than half of them are children.

“Children come to us on a daily basis in Syria, hungry, cold and deeply distressed by what they have witnessed and experienced,” says Johan Mooij, World Vision Syria Response Director.

“Boys and girls aged five or six can name every type of bomb by its sound, but sometimes can barely write their name having missed out on the chance of an education. No child should ever be forced to experience the suffering and upheaval these children have,” adds Mooij.  

“We are working to support them, but I cannot reiterate enough: only a lasting ceasefire can put an end to this misery,” he says.

Back in the camp, the adjustment hasn't been easy. Everything is expensive, Fadi says. He and one of his brothers work when they can to provide for their family. Often, it’s physical work like carrying bricks, but only the light ones he insists. 

Before the airstrikes, Fadi was in the fifth grade in school. They lived in what was his grandparents’ home. It was a modest life, but they didn’t lack for the important things like food, water, shelter and friends. 

In the chaos of the bombardment, they didn’t take much with them. 

“We couldn’t take anything with us except mattresses, blankets and some of our clothes,” says Fadi. 

For now, he and his family make their home in a tent at the displacement camp.

“We can sleep but sometimes people throw rocks at the tents,” he said. “Living in a house made of bricks is much better.”

a Syrian boy stands on a dirt road. Behind him tents and makeshift structures crowd the hillside.
Photo: courtesy of Syria Relief and Development (SRD)

“We are new here, and we don’t know anyone,” says Fadi, grieving the loss of community in their new life.

The family is living from day to day, moment to moment. Some days, they receive a small basket of food. Without this food aid, they might have nothing to eat all day.
“Honestly, we need everything,” says Fadi. “My family needs bread, sugar, tea and everything.”

One day he’d like to have an artificial limb for his right arm, but for now food tops the list of priorities.

As the conflict in Syria enters its tenth year on March 15, 2020, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Save the Children and World Vision released a new report looking at the humanitarian impact of the renewed military offensive launched in April 2019. 

The research comes as northwest Syria experiences the worst humanitarian crisis since the conflict began. According to the United Nations, at least 77 children were killed or injured in the North-West in the first month of 2020. On February 25th, ten schools and kindergartens were reported to have been bombed in Idlib, killing nine children and injuring dozens. An estimated 280,000 school-aged children in the area have had their education severely impacted.

Video: World Vision in partnership with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Save the Children.

New satellite imagery shows areas in the south and east of Idlib have been intensely damaged by the offensive. Some areas appear to be completely uninhabitable.

Another set of images show two displacement camps in North Idlib that have more than doubled in size since 2017.

On March 5, 2020, the governments of Turkey and Russia announced a ceasefire in Idlib. Meanwhile, the people of Idlib, children like Fadi and his family, are watching and waiting, hoping it holds.  

*Name has been changed to protect his identity.

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