Raqqa: Father Sells Primus Stove to Provide Price of his Child’s Medicine
On the roadside near the Museum of the city of Raqqa, in north-eastern Syria, a citizen wearing worn clothes sat and put in front of him a primus stove that he brought from home, to put it up for sale for only 4,000 Syrian Pounds.
Saleh Muhammad Deeb, a resident of the city of Raqqa, did so because his 5-year-old son was writhing in pain all night from illness, and he desperately needs the money to take him to the doctor.
“I did not find a solution other than selling the primus stove that we cook and heat the water on. I am a worker; I stand with the rest of the workers in the museum square, waiting for our livelihood, but there is not much work. We work one day and remain unemployed for ten days. Nobody helps me; living has become very difficult these days. Even getting a loaf of bread has become challenging. On the day that I work, I buy bread and food and we eat. But, when there is no work available, which is frequent, we eat nothing," said Deeb in an interview with Rozana.
Statistics conducted by local organizations in Raqqa indicate that about 40 percent of people have become below the poverty line, according to Ahmad Abdul Qader, head of Amal Humanitarian Team, who considered that the war in Raqqa in 2017 between ISIS and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the International Coalition, at the time had greatly increased poverty.
“Our team specializes in providing simple medical services for the residents who cannot afford the cost of medical treatment. Throughout the course of our work, we found that the war had significantly affected this aspect, and the percentage of the handicapped, diabetics, kidney patients and other diseases increased. Many of the residents became below the poverty line due to the high cost of medical treatment. Many of them have, thus, had to sell their properties at low prices to provide the cost for the treatment,” Abdul Qader said.
He also told Rozana about his observations of part of the suffering of the residents in Raqqa, saying: “For example, there is a resident from Raqqa who had an exchange office before the war, and he nowadays has a diabetic child who needs about 30,000 Syrian Pounds a month for treatment. The father is no longer able to secure the price of the treatment after he lost his work and his house in the war. Today, he resorts to donations and aid. There is also a woman who had to sell her refrigerator to secure the price of a dialysis session for her husband. I have personally seen these cases, and there are many similar cases in Raqqa nowadays.”
For its part, the municipality of Raqqa recently formed a committee to support the poor families under the name of the Community Support Committee, by collecting donations from the merchants and the affluent people and distributing them to the poor.
“Due to the nature of our work and our contact with people, we have witnessed many cases of poverty and destitution, in the city, as a result of the wartime circumstances in Raqqa, and large numbers of divorced women, widows and patients who cannot afford the cost of treatment,” said Awatef Al-Issa, an employee in the municipality and member of the Community Support Committee. “Therefore, we worked on forming a voluntary committee to help the poor, and we created a fund to collect donations from businesspersons in Raqqa. The committee coordinates with owners of generators (ampers) to deliver electricity for free to the houses of a number of poor families, and we have allocated a monthly salary of 25,000 SYP to some families, as they have no breadwinners. We also provide the food and clothes we collect for these families."
The house of Wafaa Numan house (displaced woman from Deir ez-Zor) was destroyed in an air strike by the Coalition aircraft in 2017. Her husband was also injured in that raid and he is unable to work. Wafaa is currently living in a block factory, in the city of Raqqa, with her disabled husband and children, without any source of income.
"We cannot afford to rent a house, but thank God the owner of the factory gave us a room in his plant. I am a mother of five children; I have a child with a birth dislocation in the pelvis, and the other suffers from kidney failure. The good people donated a sum of money to me, so I traveled to Damascus to treat him. But, currently he needs a second examination by the doctor there and I do not have enough money to travel; I do not know what to do,” said Wafaa.
After the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) took control of the city of Raqqa in late October 2017, the people started returning to their city after an arduous displacement journey in the neighboring cities and villages. That was followed by the arrival of relief organizations, in the city, to provide aid to the citizens.
According to the Relief Department at the Raqqa Civil Council, 13 local and international organizations are currently working in Raqqa on the relief side. Ibrahim Al-Nuaimi, a member of the Relief Department, indicated that the organizations entered into Raqqa in 2018 to distribute aid to all families, but currently they are working to distribute relief aid only to the poorest and middle-income families.
After 8 years of war in Syria, people’s suffering increases and poverty continues to expand, in a country where about 83 percent of its population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.