Amid conflict in Syria, stories of shattered lives

As the war in Syria enters its third year, tragic stories continue to emerge of how children and families have been devastated. World Vision is providing assistance to Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee their homeland.

Stories and photos by Patricia Mouamar, World Vision Lebanon
Published April 30, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

Mona and Bahaa

Mona and her 9-year-old daughter, Bahaa, live in a tented settlement in Lebanon. Before fleeing their native Syria, they saw many family members massacred.

“I have been in Lebanon one month. Before we left, were were staying at my parents-in-law’s house when a bomb hit it,” says Mona, recounting the horrific scene in which several of her loved ones died.

“My husband hasn’t recovered [from the trauma], and it’s made him mentally ill,” she explains. “He has seen a psychiatrist and been diagnosed with schizophrenia.”

As if the killings weren’t terrible enough, the family has also lost almost everything they owned.

“We are grateful to have the tent. But this is a big change,” says Mona. “We were a family of traders. We had two houses and owned three shops. I guess you could say we were rich.”

She utters a wry chuckle. “Not anymore.”

Mona explains that the psychiatrist provided a one-month supply of medication for her husband — but she doesn’t have money to buy a refill when it runs out.

“My daughter is only 9. What if I can’t look after her? And, what if [my husband] can’t look after us?” she asks in desperation.

“We just want to go home,” Mona concludes. “We would rather sleep in a tent on our own land than stay another night as a refugee in a foreign land.”

Zeinab and Talib

Meanwhile, Zeinab and her son, Talib, have likewise fled to Lebanon to escape violence in Syria. She’s been in a wheelchair since he was born.

Talib, 8, strokes his mother’s face tenderly and asks if she feels okay. She answers yes unconvincingly. Worry and tension are visible in the boy’s eyes.

Shortly before they fled Syria, Zeinab’s husband was killed in the war. Now, they have no source of income and have been staying with an elderly Lebanese family who took pity on them. But this won’t last for long.

“This couple is poor and old and they can’t cope, so they have asked us to leave. I do not know what we will do,” says Zeinab. “I am trying to see if I can find a tent. But even with a tent you have to pay rent and the cost to build it.”

Zeinab needs constant medication, but she has not had access to any medical care since arriving in Lebanon. Her blood pressure is dangerously low.

“We haven’t even changed out clothes since we got here,” she says, pointing to Talib’s stained sweater. “I can’t even go to the toilet on my own. Talib has to carry me if I need the bathroom in the night. He has to do everything for me. He is too little to cope with this — but what choice do we have with no husband to help me?”

Talib currently attends a World Vision Child-Friendly Space — a center where refugee children have a chance to relax, learn, and talk about the trauma they’ve faced. For this little boy who has become a man too soon, the center is a lifeline.

But his mother continues to worry. “This boy has done so much for me. He cares and loves me so much,” she laments. “I want to stay alive so I can help to care for him, too. Isn’t that what a mother is for?”

Learn more

Read more about the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis and World Vision’s response.

Three ways you can help

Please keep in prayer the children and families affected by the devastating violence in Syria. Pray especially for those who have suffered great loss and have been forced to flee their homes, like Mona, Zeinab, their children, and loved ones.

Make a one-time donation to help provide care for Syrian refugees. Your gift will help us reach those affected with assistance like Child-Friendly Spaces, food vouchers, hygiene kits, blankets, cooking stoves, fuel, and more.

Give monthly to provide support to children affected by conflict. Your monthly contribution will help us reach even more children like Bahaa and Talib, who face unimaginable circumstances because of war and violence.