Cologne/Kilis. On the day Ahmed was born, his father died in a hail of bullets. That was at the beginning of the war in Syria. Today Ahmed is twelve years old and has never known a life outside of war, displacement, and destruction. He was born in the town of Homs, but his parents’ house was destroyed and so his mother fled with Ahmed and his siblings to Bab al-Hawah near the Turkish-Syrian border. That was also his home when the devastating earthquake hit Türkiye and Syria on February 6. Ahmed was one of the lucky ones - the house in which he took refuge with his uncle and cousins remained standing. Ahmed’s uncle Abu Ziyad reports, “The noise of the earth and screams of children filled the surroundings. Since that day, the children have been very afraid of the regular aftershocks, especially at bedtime, and this is reflected in their psychological and physical health.” Since the earthquake, Ahmed’s respiratory diseases have worsened and he now requires regular treatment at the Kalbit Primary Health Care Center, which is run by the Syrian partner organization Hand in Hand through support from Malteser International.
“Most children in Syria have never experienced anything in their lives other than war, hardship and displacement and now the natural disaster comes on top of that”, says Thomas Weiß, Head of the Middle East Department of Malteser International. “Even before the earthquake, the situation was precarious, and people were weary due to the long-lasting war. Supply and service shortages in Syria were significantly exacerbated by the natural disaster. Many children are not able to go to school. In addition to medical care, it will be important to provide psychological support for children and adults. We will now set up ‘child-friendly spaces’, where children can play and recover from the terror”, explains Weiß.
Surviving the earthquake alone
Maram is 14 years old when her parents woke her up on the night of February 6 in the village of Atarep, due to the heavy shaking of the ground. She is the first to reach the stairwell and this would be her lifeline. A rescue team pulls her out from the rubble of her house, but for her parents and three sisters it was already too late. “Missiles previously damaged our building, and now it is totally smashed by the earthquake”, reports Maram. Due to the war she never went to school because she constantly had to flee. She received medical care at a mobile clinic of the Syrian organization Independent Doctor’s Association (IDA), which is supported by Malteser International. Maram is currently staying with her uncle.
Just like Maram, Ahmed too was unable to attend school for several years while on the run. Now, at twelve years of age, he is in the third grade and dreams of becoming a teacher. “I dream that one day all Syrian children will live in peace, far away from war," says Ahmed.
Malteser International is currently supporting six hospitals, a maternity clinic with a children's hospital, and eight primary health care units in the Idlib and northern Aleppo regions of northwestern Syria. All facilities are maintained by MI's Syrian partner organizations. The aid projects in the Syrian border region are managed by Malteser International from Türkiye. The aid organization has been providing humanitarian aid in the region since 2012 and has further expanded this after the earthquake.
Malteser International (MI) works as an international humanitarian aid organization. It is an aid organization of the Catholic Order of Malta and particularly fulfills the order's mission of "helping those in need". The mission is to improve the health and living conditions of suffering and displaced people worldwide. The organization provides aid to people in need in over 140 projects in 35 countries, regardless of religion, political conviction, origin or gender. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence form the basis of its work. Further information: www.malteser-international.org
Thomas Weiß, Head of the Middle East Department of Malteser International is available for interviews and sound bites.
Operator: +49 (0)221 98227 181, katharina.kiecol(at)malteser-international.org