by Vivian Tou’meh
“Our life changed considerably during the last three years, now it is completely different. My wife and I lost our jobs and our children are now without a school.”
With these words, Matar Hasan al-Sajer, a 45-year-old attorney and father of three girls and three boys, describes his life in a camp for displaced people in Saa’lo village, on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen city.
“These places lack basic facilities such as water, sanitation, roads, heating, food, clothes and healthcare,” he says. In October last year, the SARC al-Mayadeen sub-branch teams registered 112 families in camps in Saa’lo and gave them blankets and water purification materials. Al-Sajer says: “We are trying to teach children inside the camp but it is very hard due to the lack of educational tools.”
Al-Mayadeen city is 80km from the Iraqi border. Most people fled here from Deir Ezzor and its eastern areas such as al-Mouhasan village, as well as Aleppo, Homs and Hama. It was already home to approximately 150,000 people prior to the crisis but now has a population of 400,000 – including Hasan al-Sajer and his family – making it a challenge for the al-Mayadeen sub-branch.
The local SARC branch has found its work utterly transformed by three years of conflict. It was working in the health field before the crisis started, but is now providing food, water, and medical care, as well as support for people with special needs, hygiene promotion and training in computer skills.
Operational changes have been accompanied by increased numbers of people needing the branch’s services. In 2012, there were 500 families registered here. At the end of 2013, two new clinics were opened at SARC dispensary in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund under the Reproductive Health Project. 40 doctors reached 2,223 people here in 2013.
Osama al-Rahabi, the sub-branch president, says that supporting so many people was a serious challenge. “But, in the end we were able to put a smile on peoples’ faces, it was really effective when words of gratitude were mixed with tears and smiles,” he says.
As of 24 February 2014, the first-aid convoy of five trucks loaded with food parcels and hygiene kits was able to reach the city. It had been four months since support could get through.
More recently, around 6,000 children were vaccinated against polio by al-Mayadeen volunteers in al-Rashadeh, al-Rahbeh and al-Shuadaa neighbourhoods.