08/09/2018, 11.01
SYRIA
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Caritas Syria among the displaced of Ghouta: wounds of the war still bleeding

by Sandra Awad*

The costs of the conflict reach 400 billion. The Christian body has distributed thousands of food baskets and diapers to displaced people from the rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus. The stories of suffering and deprivation of women, men and children. The need to rebuild bridges between people to ensure a future for the country.

 

Damascus (AsiaNews) - The seven years of war in Syria have caused damage and devastation to the tune of nearly 388 billion dollars, according to UN experts.  They were speaking  at the end of a two-day meeting in Lebanon that brought together over 50 Syrian and international experts. The figure does not include "human losses resulting from death or loss of skills and skilled workers".

Caritas Syria dhas recently istributed 1480 food baskets to displaced families in eastern Ghouta, an area on the outskirts of Damascus that was long controlled by rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad. Christian activists have delivered a thousand baskets of fruit and vegetables and 600 packages containing diapers to a population in extreme need. Married mother of two, Sandra Awad, is head of Communication for Caritas Syria. Together with a group of colleagues she crossed the threshold of the reception center and gathered the desperate testimonies of men, women and children (in the pictures) ). A young malnourished mother in her  eighth month of pregnancy and facing a risky birth, a man who struggles to provide some food for his children, a boy who has lost his parents and lives pervaded by anger. A common drama that does not erase the hope - and the desire - for a future of peace and coexistence for the country.

Here, below, the testimony of the Caritas officer entrusted to AsiaNews.

I stepped down off the bus and my feet touched the sandy earth of the electric institution shelter in the industrial district of Adra, which gathers thousands of displaced families who left the villages of Ghouta.

I looked around me, and I got nervous, just like all my other colleagues who accompanied me; it was a sea of humans all around us. People of tanned skin that the sun has burnt, dragging their ragged clothes, and their plastic shoes. Dust that was mixed with pain, boredom, and hopelessness was covering their faces.

Men who took the floor as beds were scattered here and there. And women, lots of women, surrounded by children, too many children, born in the depth of poverty, war and long void.

As for me, I let my feet guide me through that sea of humans which was unfamiliar to me, hoping to understand, even a little, about that fierce war that stroke us all in the deep.

A few minutes later, a very skinny woman stopped me and said: "May I ask you a question, ma'am? There is something that I am worried about and I would like your advice. I am pregnant in my 8th month. Please don't look at me like that, I know that it doesn’t show, but I swear to God that it is my eighth month, which means that I am giving birth next month, and I am really worried since my belly has not pumped yet. They told me at the health center that the size of the embryo is too small for his age. What do you think? Could the baby be suffering some kind of illness? What can I do?"

I felt sad deeply and said to her: "I really don't know what to say to you. I am not an expert when it comes to medical issues”.

Suddenly, I heard a woman's voice behind me saying: "And how on earth will her belly pump while she is suffering malnutrition? A piece of dry bread with a cup of tea were all she has had since the morning!”

I looked at the lady who was talking, and I knew right away that she was that young woman's mother due to the resemblance of their features, so I said: "Well, then the basket that you are about to receive now shall be of great benefit to you, and shall nourish both of you and your infant for a while"

"Yes, it will", she answered

"I hope your birth goes well and that you'd have him in good health in your arms"

I looked at the young lady whose eyes were full of doubt and uneasiness, and she said: "Yes… hopefully”.

One of my colleagues and I carried on with our walk until we reached the place where green tents were held. Two big water tanks with the signs of the red cross and the red crescent were placed in the middle of the road leading to the tents. Men and women were drinking from them on that extremely hot day.

I contemplated the cross and the crescent that were on the two tanks, and I felt happy. They are side by side, close to each other, to quench the thirst of the center's inhabitants after a very long thirst. That view reminded me how we, a few days ago, worked hard, hand in hand at CARITAS, the Christian organization, with The Blessing Reserve Islamic Organization to prepare, with pure love, the food baskets which would be distributed to this lodging center, hoping to sate their hunger for a while, and quench the extreme thirst of their hearts to some of the attention.

I went back to the square, and at that moment, the truck that was carrying the food items bags had just arrived.

Suddenly, the sea of humans became stormy as if a storm had stroke it, and everyone rushed towards the truck pushing each other.

During all the pushing that was taking place around me, which I tried to avoid as much as possible, a man fell in front of me, and I heard him shout and curse: "To hell with this life! It is nothing but humiliation". 

He stood up again on his feet and rushed towards the truck in order to get a place in the row of that crowding, carrying what was left of his dignity, in hopes to get some food for his children.

I felt someone poking me from behind, so I turned around to find a woman in her twenties holding a little boy's hand. "Ma'am", she said, "I would like to ask you: Do you distribute diapers of big size that would suit my son? He is eight years old and has poly smoothness". I looked at the boy and noticed the traces of urine on his clothes.

"I'm afraid we don’t", I replied "We only brought for infants, but what happened to him? Did a doctor see him?"

"Yes", she replied, "and he said it is not organic… Maybe due to the panic attacks he had during the war."

I void as much as possible, a man fell in front of me, and I heard him shout and curse: "To hell with this life! It is nothing but humiliation". 

He stood up again on his feet and rushed towards the truck in order to get a place in the row of that crowding, carrying what was left of his dignity, in hopes to get some food for his children.

I felt someone poking me from behind, so I turned around to find a woman in her twenties holding a little boy's hand. "Ma'am", she said, "I would like to ask you: Do you distribute diapers of big size that would suit my son? He is eight years old and has poly smoothness". I looked at the boy and noticed the traces of urine on his clothes.

"I'm afraid we don’t", I replied "We only brought for infants, but what happened to him? Did a doctor see him?"

"Yes", she replied, "and he said it is not organic… Maybe due to the panic attacks he had during the war."

I continued my walk around the place, feeling helpless myself in the face of all those endless needs and sorrows. Gosh! What is all this pain?!!

The time was up, and we had to leave. My colleagues called on me, and most of them were already inside the bus in preparation to depart, so I headed towards them with an angry boy and a friend of hope, and the bereft mother whose son was stolen away from her by death and she was still looking for him in the faces of others. Before getting on the bus the woman asked me: "Are you from Damascus?", and I answered: "Yes, I am."

"Life is good in Damascus", she said, "and no one feels our suffering here"

"Believe me", I answered, "suffering has reached everyone. Do not think that the Damascenes are not in pain. We were all effected in a way or another, we are all in pain, and I think it is time for us to be hand in hand to face that pain together and heal from it"

I do not know if my words had any little impact on the woman, but I don’t think it did, for her pain over her dead son has filled her being and blocked her ears.

I got on the bus and had my seat, feeling tired with a heavy heart. I remembered the scenes of destruction we saw on our way to the center… Those scenes, despite of their cruelty, did not affect me, because I know that stones, sooner or later, can be rebuilt, but what about building bridges between separated hearts?

I looked from the window to find my new friend waving her hand to me and sending me kisses. I laughed… I really laughed from my heart… and a strong feeling took over me, a true and deep one that hope still exists… There is so much hope still…

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