Images: Freya Dowson for Action Against Hunger
Meeting Mothers in Conflict
More than 5 million Syrians have fled violent conflict to neighbouring countries with over 1.3 million estimated to have escaped into Jordan.
Dec 11 2018
Earlier this year, I travelled to Irbid, in Jordan, to meet some of the families that Action Against Hunger is supporting through different projects, including a waste management scheme which gave some mothers vital income which they could use to buy nutritious food for their children.
Among the mothers I met was Amnah Turkmani whose husband was shot when her village in Daraa was invaded by the Syrian army. “I came to Jordan with my children five months later,” she told me. “Now, I have to be responsible for everything. I have to be the man.”
“It is hard to support the children but I would rather have them here living in safety even though we don’t have a steady source of income,” said Amnah, who had been living with her family in Jordan for six years. “I couldn’t leave them to play outside in Syria.”
“Of course, I miss Syria. It is my country. I would like to return one day, but we can’t at the moment. Some people I know have returned but there is no peace. The attacks continue.”
A family divided
Amnah was living with her mother Fatima and her five children aged between seven and eighteen. They had been living in the Zaatari refugee camp for eleven months before coming to Irbid. Fatima, 75 has two other daughters but they are in Lebanon and Germany which means the whole family is separated. “We always talk on the phone,” Fatima told me, holding her prayer beads. “I would love to go and visit them but my biggest wish is to go home to Syria and for us all to meet there.”
Six daughters to support
I also met Mariam Agag who has six daughters aged between 15 and 6 to support. Although the girls appeared happy and settled at school and have big ambitions for the future, Mariam has been struggling to make ends meet since her husband died last year. “Life is difficult because this is not my country,” Mariam, 47, said. “I’m alone with my six girls. We have no men to protect us.”
The family fled from Saham Jounan in Daraa, Syria, in June 2012, after ISIS took over their village. Their difficulties escalated when the eldest daughter Sara was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes one year ago. Sara, 15 can get bad headaches and feel weak some of the time. She is dependent on expensive medicine to keep her healthy. When Sara was diagnosed with diabetes and her family presented with an expensive bill, her father, who was 77, became ill with the shock and died shortly afterwards of a stroke.
Earning An Income
Mariam has worked as a cleaner to try and gain some income for the family. She has also been selling off the family’s possessions. Last year, she took part in Action Against Hunger’s waste management programme and worked as a waste collector for fifty days earning 12 Jordanian Dinar a day (around £13). This gave her an income of £640 for the fifty days. Every month Mariam worries how she will finance the household but her daughters bring her joy. “When they get back from school, they all chatter about the day and their teachers,” she says. “The girls are the source of my happiness.”