Images: Freya Dowson for Action Agaisnt Hunger
The strength of sisters: Caring for children in conflict
How two refugee sisters found the strength to start a new life and provide for their children together.
Feb 6 2019
Having fled the conflict in Syria that killed their two brothers and father, Sisters, Salwa and Salam, now live in Jordan and pool their resources together for their four children.
Salwa used to be an English teacher in Syria and she provided her children with a comfortable life. She never wanted to leave Syria, instead, she moved her two daughters from town to town, trying to escape the airstrikes and violence around them. However, when the violence started to severely affect her daughter’s health, she knew she had no choice but to leave.
“Every time my daughter heard shooting or airstrikes she would get really ill. Her face would turn yellow and she would vomit. She was so frightened. I couldn’t see her sick anymore.”
In 2014, Salwa sought refuge in Jordan with her sister, Salam, and her two sons. To many people living in Jordan, Salwa and Salam’s living situation was a little unusual. Separated from their husbands, the sisters live together and have to pool their resources to support their four children on their own.
“It’s hard coming from Syria, but it’s harder when you have to explain you don’t have your husbands with you. We have to finance everything; the rent, food, clothes.”
Both sisters struggled to find any work in Jordan and supporting their family of six was a continuous challenge. They often ended up in debt to their local shop when they struggled to find the funds to feed their children nutritious foods.
When Salwa and Salam heard about Action Against Hunger’s upcycling scheme, they signed up to fixed term contracts for the sake of their children. In exchange for collecting and sorting waste from the streets, the upcycling scheme provides refugees with temporary work permits and a stable source of income. Both sisters were extremely pleased with the results; working not only provided them with an income to feed their children, but also a community that could begin to feel like a home.
“After working with Action Against Hunger, I met the Jordanians and they were very supportive and would invite me over for lunch and would ask me to bring the kids and spend the day with them and I was so happy.”
From the wages they received from Action Against Hunger, Salwa and Salam were able to buy a sewing machine and establish a small business from their home, sewing and repairing clothes, curtains and other upholstery. The sewing machine is now the sisters’ only source of income, so they have to work extremely hard to afford their rent and regularly feed their children nutritious foods. For Salwa and Salam, this is a small sacrifice to ensure the best start in life for their children.
“Life is tough” says Salwa, “so you have to be tougher. Whenever we start selling we get motivated and want to do more.”
Supporting children In conflict
Action Against Hunger operates in 17 out of the 20 most conflicted affected countries in the world. As well as supporting displaced families like Salwa and Salam’s through ‘Cash for Work’ schemes, we have provided financial aid and distributed basic hygiene kits to the most vulnerable children and families. Our water, sanitation and hygiene programmes have helped refugees renovate and build water points and toilets in their communities. In 2017 alone, Action Against Hunger’s food treatment and supplement programmes reached over 500,000 malnourished children under 5 in conflict zones around the world.