Fatima and Jazieh put a smile on their families’ faces

UNICEF’s Cash for Basic Needs Support helps families in Rural Damascus amid the continued economic crunch

Sandra Awad and Rasha Alsabbagh
30 May 2022

Rural Damascus, Syria, 11 April 2022 - “I felt really sad,” said Fatima, 45 years, about the day her husband came back home to tell her that his job search was unsuccessful. “We didn’t have any more money left. Then, I received an SMS asking me to go to the bank and receive a transfer. I began to cry.”

Fatima, originally from Deir-ez-Zor, northeast Syria, fled with her family escalating violence back home. Five years ago, they sought shelter in Kherbet Alward village, Rural Damascus, where they rent a tiny place to live. Ever since, the family has been barely able to keep afloat. Long years of displacement have depleted their livelihoods, and the continued economic hardship in the country has made their situation worse.

Group of children posing
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
(left to right) Fatima’s son, Hasan, 6, with his cousins Mohammad, 8, Ahmad, 7, and Sham, 6, in their neighbourhood in Kherbet Alward, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 11 April 2022.

“My husband Rashed and eldest son Diaa work as daily-paid construction workers,” Fatima explains. “Skyrocketing prices of food and basic goods mean more expenses for us while the income is limited.” Fatima has five children, Diaa, 17, Ithraa, 15, Seif, 13, Alaa, 11, and Hasan, 6.

A big part of the family’s income goes to Fatima’s medicine and treatment as she suffers from rheumatism and problems in her back. “I feel guilty, because we prioritize food and my medicine over new clothes for the children,” she says.

Woman cooking
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Fatima, 45, cooks in her house in Kherbet Alward, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 11 April 2022.

Using UNICEF’s cash transfer, Fatima bought new clothes for her children; bulgur, rice and vegetable oil and other food items that would last the family a while. “Buying the food, helped me feel safer and ensure I’d be able to feed my children in case it takes my husband more time to find work to provide for us,” she said.

Woman helping boy to wear a jacket
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Fatima, 45, helps her son Seif, 13, to put on his new jacket in their house in Kherbet Alward, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 11 April 2022. She bought it for him using the cash received through UNICEF’s Cash for Basic Needs Support programme.

UNICEF’s Cash Transfer for Basic Needs Support programme consists of a one-time unconditional cash transfer and referral services. It targets families with children aged 0 – 17 years in locations in most need in urban and peri-urban areas. The referrals support each family as needed. They enable out of school children to resume learning, help children with missing papers to obtain the needful legal documentation or aid children with disabilities to access the available social services.

Woman and children
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Jazieh, 40, with her daughter Fatima, 1, and her sons Mohamed, 12, and Hazem, 11, near their tent in Kherbet Alward in Rural Damascus, Syria on 11 April 2022.

Jazieh is another woman who lives in Kherbet Alward village. Her family has also received cash support from UNICEF. Originally from Hassakeh, northeast Syria, the family consists of Jazieh, her four children: Mohamed, 12, Hazem, 11, Hatem, 6, Fatima, 1, and her husband Abdullah. They arrived in the village two years ago in search of a better life and work. But they could not afford to rent a house, so Abdulla, her husband, rented a tent instead. He currently works as a daily-paid worker in the nearby agricultural land.

“My husband is our only breadwinner. Unfortunately, a year ago, he began to have heart problems, and we could not afford a doctor,” Jazieh says.

Three children playing inside a tent
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Mohamed, 12, Hazem, 11, and Hatem, 6, in their tent in Kherbet Alward, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 11 April 2022.

In February 2022, Jazieh’s family received a money transfer through UNICEF’s Cash for Basic Needs Support programme. “Together with other women from the village, I went to the bank to receive the transfer. We were extremely happy that day,” she says.

With the money the family received, Abdullah was able to visit a doctor, do some blood tests, undergo medical checkups and buy medicine to start his treatment. “He’s now able to work with much more energy. The children and I feel a lot safer, knowing that he’s well,” explains Jazieh.

Woman feeding a child
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Hasan Belal
Jazieh 40, gives her daughter Fatima, 1, a piece of bread in their tent in Kherbet Alward, Rural Damascus, Syria, on 11 April 2022.

Between late 2021 and early 2022, some 13,500 families in the most impoverished locations in Rural Damascus have received a one-time cash transfer equivalent to US$ 60 to provide for some of their basic needs. In addition to cash support, more than 8,000 children, including those out of school, ones in need of legal documents or children with disabilities, were referred to much needed social services. The activities were made possible with contributions from the EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), UNICEF’s Global Humanitarian Thematic Fund, and Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.