QAMISHLI, Syria – After fleeing Aleppo more than a year ago, Aziz decided to take his family to the city of Qamishli in Syria's northwest. He believed he had better chances of finding a job if he stayed in Syria than if he left the country.
"I’m a house painter and I thought I might find a job here,” he said, explaining that his family used to live in a big family house in Aleppo with his two brothers. "We had no choice but to escape after our neighbourhood turned into a warzone."
Finding a job was not as easy as he thought though. Aziz got only two jobs in the first six months. Even though he was living in an abandoned school, the father of three soon couldn't afford even basic living expenses. So he decided to try his luck over the border in Iraq.
“We are a family of five! I had no other option. I borrowed some money and took my family to Iraq,” he said. But after two months in Erbil, a very expensive city for his modest means, Aziz found nothing. "We had to come back to Qamishli. When we arrived, we received the very sad news that the family house in Aleppo had been destroyed.”
Back in Syria, things didn't get any easier. Aziz found himself living in a small room formerly used by the guard of one of Qamishly's public gardens. The street's residents have allowed him to use it until he finds another shelter. The neighbours were also generous and gave him some kitchen equipment, blankets and a stove for the winter.
“My room at the school was given to another family. The neighbours did help me when I arrived with some money, but that doesn’t solve the problem, I need to get a job soon,” he said. Aziz has registered again to receive WFP food assistance, after stopping when in Iraq.
WFP is doing its utmost to reach vulnerable families everywhere. As road access into Al Hassakeh remains perilous for aid agencies, WFP airlifted in December food from Erbil to Qamishli for more than 62,000 people deprived of food assistance for over five months. So far, 16 out of 20 flights have delivered food rations of staple foods enough for over 50,000 people for one month.
Aziz’s main concern is his wife and young children; Salma, 10, Ghazi, 8, and Ahmad, who is almost a year old now. The two elder ones have not attended school for more than a year and their father worries that if any of them falls ill he will not be able to afford the treatment. He admits he is very disheartened and in danger of losing hope of peace and a better future.
But he's trying to stay positive for his children. “I don't want to lose my smile. It's the last thing I can still afford to give my children.”