Jameela, 35 and Arwa, 33 have been best friends from childhood. They do everything together – shopping, childcare, even their husbands are friends too. When one decided to move from Salamiyah to Homs for work, the other followed. When the crisis began, they both decided to move back to Salamiyah. Today they are at the Syrian Arab Red Crescent clinic together, with matching symptoms.
Jameela says: “We do everything together, go to the shops, the markets. We celebrate together. We teach each other’s children.”
Both Jameela and Arwa have come to the clinic today suffering from throat inflammation and colds. The winter weather and lack of heating means that many displaced people are more susceptible to seasonal illnesses.
Jameela: “We have no fuel for heating. Fuel is expensive and you often can’t find it. The winter weather makes our health worse, but we survive.”
Arwa: “We cut down trees so we have wood to burn to heat our homes, but it is still cold and my children still get sick. When we can’t get wood we burn anything, old clothes, anything that will burn. One of my daughters got sick from the fumes.”
The best friends left their homes in Homs in 2011 and decided to return to their childhood home of Salamiyah.
Jameela: “We left due the fighting, we were worried for our children, about the psychological effect this would have on them.”
Arwa: “Sometimes we would lie to them to make them feel better. We say, ‘don’t worry, it’s far away’, but they already know what is going on without you telling them things. It’s taken some years to feel comfortable and to understand this is our situation now. There is no description for what happened.”
Now the friends face other challenges, to support their families and keep them healthy.
Arwa: “You can adjust to anything, so with the water and electricity situation, you adapt. We try to keep warm. My older children have more immunity but you notice the younger ones have lower immunity, they get sick more often.”
When asked what they would do without the clinic, they both laugh. Then they go quiet and think. Really there is no option.
Arwa: “Medicines are expensive, so it’s important that we can get this help here for free.”
Through their lives, including the crisis, the two friends have been each other’s support.
Jameela: “The pain of the crisis affects all of us – all of us in Syria feel this pain. The accents may be different, it’s the same pain.”
Arwa: “We support each other because we are women and women always talk, we talk about problems. Because we are friends, we must take action to support each other. We look after each other’s children.”
Jameela: “You have more friends in your life, but your best friend is important, someone you can tell your secrets. So Arwa is important to me.”
Arwa: “Without Jameela, there would be an empty hole in my life.”
The SARC malnutrition clinic in Salamiyah has both a base in the town and a mobile team of volunteers who go out to surrounding villages. The malnutrition clinic is one of six such SARC facilities, supported by the Canadian and Japanese Red Cross Societies, in response to the situation faced by displaced people and those living in hard-to-reach areas.