Five-year-old Aya spent the two hours on the road looking out the window of the car, asking ‘are we there yet?’ smiling for the soldiers at checkpoints and, asking her sister Yasmine, 14, to play. Yasmin, though, was occupied with thoughts of her mother. Where was she? Is she still alive?
Aya and Yasmin left the city of Adra with their neighbours. Their mother was detained by one of the armed groups inside the city while trying to leave; Yasmin, who has thalassemia (a blood disorder) had missed her blood transfusion and the family was leaving in search of medical help.
After they arrived at a temporary shelter, volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) took the two girls to a house in a nearby town and started the process of finding relatives who could care for them.
Yasmine had told them of an aunt who lived in the nearby city of Alqutaifa. Volunteers made contact with the aunt, but Yasmin’s concern was still for her mother. “I do not think much of what will happen to us , I just want to know the fate of my mother.” She would worry about treatment and school, she said, when she knew her mother was safe. “What is important now is to hear the voice of my mother.”
The aunt received the two girls in tears and she, too, was concerned for her sister. When she left for Adra, which is closer to the hospital where Yasmin was being treated, she had no thoughts but for her children. “My sister was not thinking about anything else but her daughters, how she could fulfill their needs, and get treatment for Yasmine. So she moved to Adra. I wish she had not.”
Adra City was home to 50,000 people but had received 200,000 displaced people after fighting broke out in the East Ghota of Damascus. The entire city is now under siege. So far, only 21,000 civilians have managed to escape outside the city. Aya and Yasmin were forced to walk more than 5km to gain access to the cement plant in the nearby industrial city, and then to the driving school where they met the Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers.
By Qusai Azroni, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Rural Damascus