Red Crescent livelihood programme brings hope to families in Syria

Published: 1 April 2016 9:25 CET

By Soraya Dali-Balta, IFRC

As the crisis in Syria passes its fifth year, millions of people across the country have grown increasingly dependent on humanitarian aid for survival – an estimated 13.5 million people are in dire need of assistance and basic relief items, such as food, water and medicines, as well as psychosocial support. Along with this ongoing humanitarian response, Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is providing livelihood support with its partners.

These pilot programmes aim to enable Syrians to transition from relying solely on relief aid towards earning cash to support their families. SARC began this livelihoods programming in the last quarter of 2015, with the support of several partners, including the British Red Cross, ICRC and IFRC, in addition to local partners. So far, 56 volunteers have been trained in how to support community-level livelihood activities, and are either supporting projects that are up and running, or are identifying opportunities to expand the programme.

Five pilot projects are underway in different regions of Syria. A livelihoods capacity building plan was also put in place to support Red Crescent staff and volunteers with the necessary knowledge about the implementation of the projects.

Yolanda Davila, livelihood delegate, IFRC Syria explains: “The support to the primary needs of the affected population inside Syria is well established. However, the protracted nature of the crisis and its medium- to long-term consequences have attracted the focus on supporting livelihoods, in parallel with existing humanitarian relief activities. The volunteers we work with believe also in livelihoods programming as they see the needs on the field and opportunities for families to go back on their own feet.”

The pilot projects are being supported by 14 of SARC’s trained volunteers. When asked about the experience of these volunteers, Davila continues: “Recently, a volunteer from Homs Branch told me that to her, livelihood support is much more than the money the families earn – “It’s worth it just to be able to change the lives of these poor people even a little bit within this big crisis,’ she told me.”

Abu Ahmed, from Homs, was one of the candidates whose projects were approved by the SARC and ICRC. The crisis had taken its toll on Abu Ahmed and his family, with their meagre savings quickly disappearing.

“I wanted to become a beans peddler, one of the traditions in my city, and I immediately applied for the project,” Abu Ahmed said.

A few weeks later, the father of four received a trolley and the tools he needed to begin his new business. Abu Ahmed wasted no time, and today is a well-known bean peddler in Homs.

“I am back on my own feet again,” he commented. Abu Ahmed is now using the money he is earning to pay back his debts and to provide clothes and other necessities for his children.

SARC remains at the forefront of humanitarian work throughout the country. Its volunteers continue to risk their lives to be able to access hard to reach areas and deliver vitally needed services and relief items. Through the livelihood programme, SARC goes beyond hand-to-mouth support, and builds hope for the future among the communities it serves.