29 November 2023
Joint Statement on the 16 Days of Activism Campaign by UN RC/HC for Syria, Adam Abdelmoula, and The RHC for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi
24 November 2023
Rehabilitating Dreams: The Human Voices behind Aleppo's School Rehabilitation Project
06 September 2023
Monthly Digests of the UN in Syria
The Sustainable Development Goals in Syrian Arab Republic
Mohammad Al-Ahmad and Ibrahim Afara, university students and lifelong friends, have recently gained employment with an ILO project aiming to rehabilitate three schools that were affected by the 2023 earthquake, involving 150 workers across 30 classrooms, totaling 4,000 worker days, and ultimately targeting to create a safe educational environment benefiting 3,500 pupils, in partnership with the implementing partner, the international NGO, ZOA.
They have poured their efforts into revitalizing their old school and refurbishing their cherished second-floor classroom, a space brimming with their shared childhood memories. Their commitment to the project showcases a profound bond that has persisted through time. Their collaboration isn't just about the physical renovation; it's a heartfelt tribute to their enduring friendship, bridging their past as classmates with their present as university students and dedicated workers contributing to their community.
For Mohammad Al-Ahmad, a young man yearning for a brighter future, this project means more than a paycheck. "Being the youngest in my family, working on my childhood school's rehabilitation with my childhood friend fills me with pride. It's an investment in my future," he reflects, carrying the hopes of a generation longing for stability.
“At 20 years of age, I've embarked on a new journey, one that blends my academic pursuit with a meaningful opportunity. My closest companion Ibrahim and I share countless memories of our childhood." Mohammad Al-Ahmad
“Currently enrolled in my first year of English Literature, I've stepped into the realm of earning an experience entirely new to me. This opportunity, seldom available for students due to conflicting university schedules, has been a rare gem,” he confides expressing gratitude for finding this job opportunity.
Mohammad prioritizes his education, seeking to excel at his studies. “What sets this project apart is its flexibility. Here, we're granted the liberty to take leave for exams and even attend lectures, aligning work hours with our academic commitments. It's a unique setup that pays per hour, accommodating the nuances of our university routines.”
“Beyond the immediate financial gains, this endeavor holds substantial value for my future. It's good for my resume. Yet, the significance lies beyond a mere line on a CV. Contributing to the rehabilitation of my childhood school feels deeply personal. Working on my very own classroom evokes a sense of nostalgia, a reminder of cherished memories interwoven with these walls,” he shares finding profound significance being involved with this project.
In the journey of Ibrahim Afara, an aspiring IT engineer, personal and family aspirations intertwine. "My father's unrealized dreams drive me. This opportunity supports my education and grants me invaluable experience," he confides. He has determination echoing through his pursuit of knowledge and growth.
Ibrahim, aged 21, reflects on a life shaped by the upheavals of war and a determined pursuit of education against all odds.
"When the war began, uncertainty loomed, yet we stayed, not knowing where else to seek refuge," Ibrahim shares, bearing witness to the dangers faced by his family. "I have two younger siblings, and I'm determined to guide my sister towards fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor."
Currently studying Information Engineering at university, Ibrahim navigates a dual life—a diligent student attending lectures and a dedicated worker at the ILO’s school rehabilitation project. "This job allowed me to purchase a laptop, an essential tool for my studies in IT engineering," he adds.
Ibrahim's pursuit of education carries a profound familial weight. "I am fulfilling my father's dream," he reveals. "He yearned for a university education but was unable to pursue it. Now, by attending university, I'm realizing his unfulfilled aspirations."
His father's struggles in providing for the family due to the loss of his job weigh heavily on Ibrahim's heart. "He used to work in clothes printing, and I assisted him. But circumstances forced him to sell the machines, leaving him unemployed."
The ILO project's flexibility, allowing hourly leave, is a rare blessing. "It permits me to balance work with university lectures, and covers my transport costs," Ibrahim explains, grateful for an opportunity seldom available to university students elsewhere.
"This school holds memories," Ibrahim muses as he installs tiles, revisiting his classroom on the second floor, where he and his friend Mohammad once studied. "It's nostalgic, imagining myself sitting in the front row as I usually did and learning with my classmates and teacher."
The organized work environment and emphasis on safety resonate deeply with Ibrahim.
“Learning rehabilitation work here is invaluable. It's an opportunity to enhance my skills that I am definitely going to use when I get married and have a home of my own – it would definitely save expenses if we need to reinstall tiles in my future home!" Ibrahim Afara
Beyond academics and work, Ibrahim cherishes his role within a team, relishing the teamwork experience that enriches his life. "Working together, understanding different age groups, I'm gaining life skills!"
Finally, Ibrahim passionately urges humanitarian and development organizations to follow the ILO's model, advocating for opportunities that combine education, experience, and empowerment for university students.
Um Abdulla's Story and the Ripple of Hope
Um Abdulla, currently working with the ILO project to rehabilitate schools in Aleppo that were affected by the 2023 earthquake Amidst the toil and hope, Um Abdulla's story stands as a testament to resilience beyond financial gains. "I clean the site, aid the workers, and feel I'm contributing. It's a way to cope," she shares.
"I have nine children—six girls and three boys. We had a son, but he passed away," shares a resilient mother whose life has been shaped by both loss and determination.
"Three of my daughters attend this school," she continues.
Her family's journey, marred by displacement due to war, brought them back to their home, now shared with her married son's family, leading them to live within the premises of the school where her husband works, brewing tea and coffee for the staff.
"When the earthquake struck, many sought refuge in the schoolyard; my husband opened the gates," she recalls.
“I provide refreshments to the workers and clean the site after hours. It's my first job, and it's not just about earning money; it's about overcoming the pain of losing my son." Um Abdulla
She emphasizes her vital role in ensuring cleanliness and facilitating the team's efforts. "I might not do heavy work, but cleaning is my contribution to the teamwork," she adds with pride.
Her sense of satisfaction isn't solely derived from financial gains; it's in witnessing the school's transformation and the happiness it brings to the students. "Their excitement about the school's renewal is heartwarming; they believe it will enhance their learning," she says, echoing the community's enthusiasm for the project.
Encouraging women to break societal barriers, she advocates for their participation in the workforce to alleviate financial burdens. "I urge women to work, support their husbands, and overcome social barriers," she says, determined to continue participating in such rehabilitation efforts.
Brushes of Resilience: Abu Ahmad's Story of Adaptation and Achievement
Nidal Al-Turk, currently working with the ILO project to rehabilitate schools in Aleppo that were affected by the 2023 earthquake Nidal Al-Turk, or Abu Ahmad, a devoted father to three boys aged 17, 16, and 13, shares a journey marked by displacement and perseverance amid adversity. "The war disrupted everything, especially my sons' education," he reflects. "We were displaced, returned home, only to face the earthquake that left our fifth-floor home dwelling with cracks in its walls and roof."
Before the conflict, Abu Ahmad worked diligently in a textile factory. However, an eye injury from work required surgery, leaving him with vision in just one eye. "I tried electrical work, but maintenance jobs were scarce. Then, I turned to my original trade, painting," he explains. "In our community, painting is often considered a luxury, not a necessity. But painting schools opened a door for workers like me."
The revelation about the ILO's school rehabilitation project came through a friend. "When I heard they needed painters, it felt like an opportunity," Abu Ahmad shares. “This work is comfortable, and although wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) was new to us, it's for our safety and results in better-quality work." Nidal Al-Turk
For Abu Ahmad, painting has become more than a trade - it's a means of providing despite his injury. "Due to my eye injury, painting feels like the right fit for me," he says.
Their testimonies echo a symphony of resilience, determination, and unwavering hope. They signify more than just recovery; they symbolize a community rehabilitating not just schools, but the very fabric of their lives.
In Aleppo, the ILO's project isn't just about renovating structures; it's about breathing life into forgotten aspirations. Each stroke of paint, every laid tile, every cup of tea served stands as a testament to the human spirit's unwavering ability to rise above adversity.
Bonsoir and Al-Salam Alikium The earthquake has been for Syrian people akin to the effect of COVID-19 infecting a sick body weakened by 12 years of crisis. Its impact is devastating. This time it is not war, it is the very earth Syrians believed it was reliable, until it shook. This is a crisis on top of a crisis and terrible shock for Syrians.
Since the 6th of February, 500,000 people have been displaced, and thousands more lost access to basic services and livelihood. Collective shelters, camps, and informal settlements are overcrowded. Violence, abuse, and mental health are on the rise. Hygiene is disastrous, and cholera lurks around the corner.
As USG Achim Steiner just said, before this earthquake, 15.3 million people— 70 per cent of the country’s population—needed assistance. 4.1 million were already living under extreme or catastrophic humanitarian conditions. Add to this a terrible earthquake.
Human reality is grim. Dina is a young teacher, mother of 4 children, and displaced for the third time in 12 years. I met her in a shelter in Aleppo. Her building collapsed. She now lives in the very same classroom where she used to teach. She lost everything. Fridge, TV, furniture, everything. Her husband’s small business is buried under the rubble. From a struggling middle class, the family is suddenly thrown into the humanitarian basket. She is scared to go to the bathroom at night. “There is no light, no running water, no security. We have nothing left." She shouted.
Thousands of men, women, children, orphans, and vulnerable people need shelter, food, medicine, blankets, toilets, water, electricity, sewerage, education, health services, and protection. Above all, they need dignity, they need jobs, and legitimate options in life. If left without options, people will seek alternatives elsewhere.
The first weeks of response have uncovered deep vulnerabilities that need to be addressed if humanitarian efforts are to be effective. The absence of basic enabling systems, that is energy, water, sewerage, and basic infrastructure is hindering humanitarian work. Business as usual will only lead to more People-in-Need.
Let us do it right this time. While lifesaving and life sustenance are important, assistance must take the people out of poverty, reduce vulnerabilities, and break the cycle of dependency on aid. Excellencies,
The estimated needs are vast and vary between $7.9 billion (the WB) and $14.8 billion (UN). The preliminary UN estimates come from the Syria Earthquake Recovery Needs Assessment, or SERNA. The most badly hit sectors are Housing, Land and Settlements, Health and Nutrition, Education, and WASH. 75% are partially damaged, if repaired immediately will restore services and allow people to live with some sense of dignity.
The UN is already on the ground and we are ready to scale our efforts to the needs.
The next 24 months are crucial. We need both life sustenance and early recovery. These are two sides of the same coin. Life sustenance alone will only lead to an increase in the number of People in Need. Excellencies,
Millions of men, women, and children in Syria, in all of Syria, need our support. Let us focus on people not on politics. We need your support, we need funds, and we need access.
Humanitarian assistance needs to flow without any hinderances.
Without adequate resources, and a proper approach, there could be more people require humanitarian assistance by the start of 2024. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please be generous. Help the survivors recover their livelihoods so they are able to put food on the table. Help them rebuild their lives. Young boys and girls must enjoy safety of a home, education, health, protections, and a better future.
If we do not act now, hundreds of thousands will be trapped into poverty, despair, and chaos. Let us make sure we put people first.
Your presence today, is a proof that you care.
Olga Cherevko, Spokesperson, OCHA Syria, Damascus, firstname.lastname@example.org
Madevi Sun-Suon, Public Information Officer, OCHA Türkiye Gaziantep, email@example.com
Yannick Martin, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Amman, firstname.lastname@example.org Disclaimer UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.