Fleeing Aleppo: one family’s story of leaving the war-torn city
The fighting in Aleppo has intensified and the stop and go evacuations of families from Eastern Aleppo has resumed once again. As of Saturday, 8,000 families had escaped on buses. Many left without any belongings or food. The UN believes at least 2,700 children were among the evacuees. Some left without their parents.
World Vision is working on the ground in Syria and spoke to Shihab* to hear first-hand the experience of those fleeing Aleppo.
When and how did you manage to get out?
The buses started picking up people around 12:00am. It was chaos; there were more people than buses. I didn’t manage to get onto one until 5:30am.
There are no words to describe what it was like and how we felt. There were families and children everywhere, no one was organising anything. Everyone was just keen to get out. People were being pushed around, sometimes beaten.
People came with their luggage, whatever they could bring with them. But there was no space. People had to leave their belongings lying on the road just get on the bus. Later that night, it became cold and to keep warm people started fires with their luggage. I was one of those who burned their belongings just to feel a warmer. I kept only two sets of clothing.
Are you safe now?
I’m in Idlib governorate, where it’s relatively safe. But as long as these jets are flying around, no one is safe.
What was it like living in the besieged area?
It is so hard to describe. We feel humiliated for being forced to leave our homes. But we had no other choice. Some people haven’t had bread for six months. The bread we have eaten, was not actually real bread. We had to grind beans to make it into a flour-like substance to bake. Even that was super expensive. Everything was either not available or super expensive. Charities’ warehouses are either empty or have been impacted by bombings. The bazars were targeted directly as well, so we couldn’t even go there to buy food.
We haven’t had access to water, there was no electricity to power the pumps. A lot of people had cases of diarrhea. They had to stay in makeshift health clinics and use liquid paracetamol and other serums to get better.
Were baby needs available?
We had baby milk at the beginning, but when the charities’ warehouses were impacted by bombings, the milk was destroyed. Diapers were rare to find and expensive, and there was a monopoly for items that were hard to find.
Did people have access to health care facilities?
All hospitals were targeted in bombings. I went to the hospital, “Al-Qudus”, and it smelled like a slaughterhouse because all of the blood. The floor was literally covered with blood, both dry and new blood. The staff were too busy dealing with new casualties every minute to clean. Patients were on the floor, lining the hallways and corridors. Doctors were operating on two patients at the same time in operation rooms, sometimes more. I saw an operation conducted in a hallway. It was too crowded. People were everywhere looking for their family members.
Where are people staying now and what are your needs?
Some people are staying with relatives. But some don’t have a place to go to.
We need the basics; shelter, clothing, blankets and food. We need everything to start a new home.
Every single person from Aleppo is in shock. The bombings have effected everyone. Evacuating has only made it worse.
Our teams are working hard to meet the immediate needs of those fleeing Aleppo. We continue to provide winter supplies, clean water and sanitation services, as well as food and emergency supplies. We’re pre-positioning thousands of blankets and mattresses to provide families currently fleeing Aleppo.
Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that." We are asking everyone this Christmas to show the children of Syria they do not stand alone.
Express Solidarity: Put a burning candle in your window, take a photo or a small video clip and post it with the hashtag #Candle4Syria on Facebook or Twitter
Demand Peace: Ask your leaders take action to end the violence in Syria - you can contact them here https://www.writetothem.com
Support Syrians: Donate to NGOs on the ground that can help to alleviate some of the suffering
*Names have been changed to protect identities