Across Syria, displacement remains a chronic problem. The war has displaced over half of the country’s pre-war population of 22 million. Over the course of recent months, a number of Syria’s displaced have begun returning to their homes, particularly in Deir ez-Zour Province where ISIS lost nearly all the land it once held. However, in provinces such as Hama, displaced Syrians continue to live in dire conditions with no hope of returning to their homes.
Many of the displaced Syrians in Hama are from the provincial capital or its northern countryside, both of which have seen heavy fighting. Although the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) wrestled control of Hama City early in the war, the rebels remained along the northern edges of the city. Attempts to return and rebuild towns such as Kafr Zita were quickly aborted due to the re-escalation of hostilities.
Beset with false-starts and the destruction of homes, many of the displaced locals now live in fields in the province’s northern and northeastern regions. They have set up tents and shacks but many of these are insufficient to weather the cold winter. Electricity is available only via generators that can only be used in rare occasions due to the rising cost of fuel. Clean water is only available through delivery trucks which have trouble reaching the camps during adverse weather. The people here say that they have appealed for help from the local councils but so far, they have been ignored.
Safety remains a concern too. Over the past few weeks, northeast Hama countryside has witnessed an intense, three-way battle between the SAA, Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and ISIS. The battle has added another layer of complication to the already-difficult lives of the Syrians here, with distant sounds of shelling having become a regular feature.
It is estimated that some 450 families, including 1,200 children reside under such conditions in the Hama countryside. Many of them are unprepared for the harsh winter to come.