The Compassion of Water: Abu Ahmad's Story - GOAL Global Skip to content

The Compassion of Water: Abu Ahmad's Story

Water is Life

“There is no substitute for water,” says Abu Ahmad*, a resident of the village of Kafr Hum in Idleb, Northwest Syria.

“Believe me when I tell you that we worry more about water than about bread. In the place of bread, you can cook rice, lentils, or bulgur. But there is nothing you can do in the absence of water,” he continues.

Coming from a family of farmers, the 59-year-old's connection to water runs deep.

Abu Ahmad and his family also live next to the small water tower that provides clean water to Kafr Hum.

"The water tower has been my loving neighbour for a long time. I can only sleep if I hear its gentle hum at night. To me, it's more than just a building made of stone,” shares Abu Ahmad.

Abu Ahmad is the primary provider for his wife, their two sons, five grandchildren, and his brother's five children, who were orphaned in 2015 when their father lost his life after getting caught in the crossfire in Syria's protracted conflict.

The February 2023 earthquakes, which damaged over 10,000 buildings in Northwest Syria, also hit Kafr Hum. While the community was fortunate to survive the disaster relatively unharmed, the village's water tower was all but destroyed.

A Syrian man in Kafr Hum village, Idleb, Northwest Syria standing in front of a water tower.
Abu Ahmad standing in his house, with the restored water tower visible in the back.

There is nothing you can do in the absence of water.

Earthquake Damage

"After the earthquakes, the reservoir could not hold water any more and was left empty except for all the rubble,” Abu Ahmad explains.

"I was very afraid of how we would survive without running water," he continues, before adding:

"We fell into a miserable state because we lost our water, the most precious thing for us. As they say, the true value of a blessing is known only by those who have lost it."

With no piped water, residents of Kafr Hum had no option but to rely on water distributed in trucks by commercial operators for both sustenance and sanitation.

"Without water, we couldn't keep our homes clean. We became afraid of many things, including contagious diseases. We had no choice but to use water from unknown sources," continues Abu Ahmad.

According to the UN, across Syria, more than half of the population lacks access to piped water and copes by resorting to alternatives such as trucked water distributed by private vendors.

“Was the water from the vendors sterile? Was it potable? We did not have enough time to think about this. What mattered for us after the earthquake was obtaining water,” Abu Ahmad remembers.

Children walking by a restored water tower in Kaf Hum village, Northwest Syria.
The children of Kafr Hum walking by the village's restored water tower on their way home from school.

We lost our water, the most precious thing for us. As they say, the true value of a blessing is known only by those who have lost it.

The damage caused by the earthquakes increased the need for trucked water, constricting the supply and causing further problems for residents of Kafr Hum.

"As the demand increased, receiving a water tank refill became a miracle, and the price grew day by day. Our suffering had no end,” Abu Ahmad explains.

He then adds, "we needed refills every five days, but the vendor could never deliver on time because everyone wanted water. We were so frustrated, but we felt our spirits finally return thanks to GOAL teams' restoring the village's water tower."

A Syrian family washing hands with recently restored piped water in Idleb, Northwest Syria.
Um Ahmad, Abu Ahmad’s wife, and his cousin helping Nader (5), one of Abu Ahmad's grandchildren, wash his hands.

With the return of our water, I began calling the village’s water station ‘the compassionate one,’ as it quenches the thirst of the people of our village without any expectations.

Restoration Work

Kafr Hum is among the 12 communities in Northwest Syria where GOAL has restored water towers damaged by the February 2023 earthquakes, thanks to the support provided by the European Union and other generous donors.

“GOAL teams very quickly assessed the damage the earthquakes caused to our village’s water system. During the tower's restoration period, they also delivered safe, clean water to us daily by trucks, free of charge. It was such a reassurance to have clean drinking water available in the aftermath of the disaster and a relief to save the money we paid for commercial water, which we could use to buy bread and food,” continues Abu Ahmad.

“But the happiest moment for me and for my family was when we saw water flowing from the tap after the tower was restored. With the return of our water, I began calling the village’s water station ‘the compassionate one,’ as it quenches the thirst of the people of our village without any expectations.”

*The names of the individuals featured in this story were changed to protect their identity

GOAL in Syria

After more than a decade of conflict, over 6.8 millions Syrians are internally displaced. 70% of Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance and relying on aid to survive day-to-day.

GOAL teams have been working on the ground in Syria since the conflict began in 2012. In the last year GOAL's emergency response programme has reached over 287,000 newly displaced people with food, cooking supplies and financial assistance. As GOAL engineers repair damage to water network infrastructure, more than 1.1 million people are now able to access clean drinking water in their homes. A further 430,000 people are benefitting from GOAL's bakery programme in North-West Syria.

Impact in Numbers

+1 million

Providing clean water to over 1 million people


Delivering bread to over 430,000 people daily

2.1 million

People supported in 2022


GOAL begins operations in Syria

Kareem's Story

Kareem and his family have spent the last decade travelling across war-torn Syria seeking refuge. Neighbouring Turkey offered a safe haven and a chance to rebuild their lives.

Sadly, this respite was short-lived. The family were forced to flee once again when a massive earthquake struck Turkey in February. Lucky to escape with their lives, the family returned to North-West Syria.

Escalating conflict has once again uprooted the family. As airstrikes intensified, Kareem and his family were forced to flee their home in Sarmin.

The decision was not taken lightly but Kareem was left with no choice, “You experience the peak of helplessness when you see your children scared, trembling."

"Although it was dangerous to travel while bombs were falling all around us, I gathered my children one evening when the shelling waned a bit and we escaped without looking back,” Kareem says.

Kareem with his 2 sons and daughter at their new temporary home

Kareem with his 3-year-old son Azim, 4-year-old Ahmad and 5-year-old daughter Yasmine.