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news | December 19, 2016 | Syria | Emergency

Providing shelter for those most in need and rehabilitating homes in northern Syria

Ongoing restoration work on damaged homes in northern Syria.

The past five years of conflict has brought immeasurable destruction across the towns, villages and countryside of northern Syria, with over 400,000 homes having been destroyed and 1.2 million homes damaged. Every day, dozens of houses are destroyed or damaged by fighting, forcing their owners to the make the hard choice of either spending scarce resources to repair the damage, continuing to live amongst the rubble and patchwork repairs, or packing up all they can carry and trying to find a safer roof over their heads elsewhere. ACTED has therefore been working through a UNHCR-funded project to address part of this need by helping 670 of the most vulnerable of these families’ repair and improve their damaged homes.

Beneficiary homes in the aftermath of airstrikes, August 2016. ACTED has been restoring several hundred of such homes in northern Syria.

Careful assessment of the needs for adequate and efficient responses

To address these circumstances ACTED field staff have been engaged in far-ranging surveys of conflict-affected towns and villages in northern Syria to identify at-need communal buildings – abandoned schools, partially constructed apartment buildings and the like that are being used by homeless families – and damaged homes or apartments in need of repair. For the shared buildings, ACTED has been carrying out a wide-range of repairs including the installation of doors, windows and plumbing and the restoration of roofs and walls to better protect the inhabitants from the elements. For the more standard houses, ACTED has selected the families most in need – those that lack the resources to repair their homes or rent new ones, such as widowed or elderly-headed households – and is busy working with local construction contractors to repair the homes before the onset of winter. For the families with able-bodied members wanting to work, especially those with prior construction or carpentry experience, ACTED has been providing them directly with cash grants with which to buy materials, tools and hire labourers themselves, as this allows them to conduct the repairs in a more cost-effective and dignified manner.

Promoting dignified living conditions

One of such beneficiaries is Eyad, who moved with his wife and 10 young children into a small side room in his neighbour’s home after his home was destroyed by an airstrike. At the onset of the project, Eyad described the fear on his children’s faces when it rained once – how the sound of rain drumming on the thin metal roof reminded them of falling bombs. He also described how, with a monthly income of less than 50 USD, he had been unable to scrape together enough resources to provide better living conditions for his family. Now, with the cash grant provided by ACTED and UNHCR, Eyad and hundreds of other similar parents in Syria have been able to repair their homes. They have been able to insulate walls to keep out the winter cold, fix roofs to keep out the rain, install doors and windows to help families feel more secure, and provide more dignified living conditions for their children and dependents.