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Surviving Winter in Syria: Fatima's Story

10 Years of Displacement

Fatima* was forced from her home in 2013, soon after conflict broke out in Syria. A conflict that has led to the death of over 500,000 people, including Fatima’s husband. After 10 years of living in displacement, the 61-year-old mother looks back fondly on her life before the conflict.

“Our land gave us our daily needs. We used to start securing winter provisions, both for food and heating, in the summer. Our work in the fields was enough to make us happy,” Fatima says. “We didn’t bear the burden of the cold.”

Struggling to Survive

After a decade of travelling across Idleb province in search of safety, Fatima and her family finally found refuge in Abad Displacement Camp near Syria’s border with Türkiye (Turkey). Since losing her husband in 2012, Fatima has struggled to look after her children alone. Putting food on the table for her young son and daughter has been a constant challenge.

“I found myself as the sole provider for a family that had lost its head. It's been extremely challenging to find a job,” Fatima says.

Fatima’s son and daughter have both sought work to help their mother make ends meet. However, stable income opportunities have been scarce. “My son earns a wage of 35 Liras (Around €1) per day from working as a porter. My daughter 5 Liras (around 20c) per hour picking pistachios and vegetables – the cost of a water tank amounts to 70 Liras (around €2),” Fatima explains.

Winters are harsh, our tent is worn out, and the cold always bites into my weary bones.

GOALies are providing financial aid to over 15,000 households like Fatima's
GOALies are providing financial aid to over 15,000 households like Fatima's

With prices rising daily, Fatima fears the onset of winter. She spent months desperately saving to help the family survive the cold nights ahead. “The thought of how to secure our heating needs has been weighing heavily on me. Winters in this region are harsh, our tent is worn out, and the cold always bites into my weary bones,” she says.

With heating occupying her mind the family had to cut back in other areas, “This fear has prevented us from buying the things we've longed for, like vegetables and new clothes. We could only purchase bread and bulgur wheat to fill our belly, saving our money for firewood or dried animal dung - the cheapest heating and cooking fuel available here.”

Fortunately, with funding from EU Humanitarian Aid, Fatima’s family are receiving vital financial aid this winter. GOAL teams are supporting over 15,000 households in North-West Syria with direct cash assistance. Empowering mothers like Fatima to prioritise their family's needs - purchasing food, cooking supplies, clothes and medicine to help survive the cold months ahead.

Fatima's home at the displacement camp
Fatima's home at the displacement camp

I am very grateful. We can only hope that this assistance will continue, as without it we have no way of fighting the cold.

"I am very grateful,” Fatima says. “The winter assistance warmed us even before the cold could strike us, giving me a sense of safety and reassurance. Being able to meet the cost of heating fuel has also made it possible for me to buy warm clothes for my children for the first time in years,” she adds.

Fatima is happy that the heating supplies she has bought will bring her some peace of mind and warm their tent. But as her family gathers around the stove, she remains worried for the future. As prices continue to escalate and needs grow in Northwest Syria, jobs are becoming even harder to come by. Leaving families even more reliant on humanitarian aid. “We can only hope that this assistance will continue, as without it, we have no way of fighting the cold,” Fatima concludes.

*The names of Fatima and her family have been changed to protect their identity.

Photograph of Syrian grandmother and her three young grandchildren outside their tent at a displacement camp in Kelly, Syria.
Fatima with her grandchildren outside of their tent in Abad Displacement Camp

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.