Before the crisis, Salamiyah had a population of around 300,000. Now it’s home to almost double – around 500,000. Many displaced people (IDPs) have come to the town and surrounding rural areas.
Ghassan, 5, and his mother Kholoud left their village in Rural Damascus in 2011 and heard that Salamiyah, an area in rural Hama was a good place to come to. They set up home with Ghassan’s dad and his older brother, aged 9.
After tackling the practicalities of finding somewhere to live, getting basic amenities and supplies for their home, another challenge for displaced people can be settling in and adjusting to your new circumstances.
Kholoud explains: “It’s taken me two years to get used to the idea that we live here now. It took time for me to talk to people. There is no description for how I feel about leaving my home. It is hard to start over from zero. Sometimes I feel nervous. I had depression for a while. I was scared of people.”
For Ghassan, settling in has been easier and he has made a lot of new friends.
“I have 12 friends here. I like football, I am the goalkeeper, but I also score goals. I let some goals in, but we still win, I scored 5 goals. I have two favourite toys, a lion and a bear and I play with them with my best friends.”
The family face many challenges. Ghassan’s 9-year-old brother suffered a brain injury in a car accident and now needs constant care. Kholoud recently had treatment for breast cancer. And Ghassan may need corrective surgery after a previous operation, which cost most of the family’s single income, went wrong.
Ghassan and his family are now being supported by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) clinic in Salamiyah, which provides medical treatment, advice and medicine for free. Most of their patients, like Ghassan and Kholoud, are displaced.
The family has a lot to cope with. But Kholoud still smiles, laughs, and can calmly discuss and analyse their situation.
“I try saying to myself there are people with worse problems. So I can handle what I have to do at home and take care of my family. Now I find talking is helpful.”
Ghassan knows what he wants for his future. When he grows up, he wants to drive a red car (“the best cars are red”) and to be a paediatric doctor, like the doctor at the SARC clinic.
“Every treatment for patients will be free and I won’t take any payment. I want to be a doctor to help people.”