Difficult living conditions and financial hardship are pushing refugees scattered in north Syria camps to engage in hard physical labor in exchange for small amounts of money to secure basic life needs, such as food and medicine.
Umm Ahmad, 55, is a displaced Syrian widow from the Hama countryside who is currently staying at one of the camps in Kafr Lusin village, which is located on the border with Turkey in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.
Noting that humanitarian and international aid organizations have failed refugees in north Syria, Umm Ahmad said she was forced to resort to cracking and shelling walnuts alongside her orphaned children to make a living.
“Cracking open walnuts is one of the most straining jobs,” she stressed, explaining that a lot of detail goes into removing the nut from the shell after its opened by a hammer.
“Sometimes you strike your fingers instead of the walnut,” Umm Ahmed said, but added that taking a hammer hit on the hand is much easier than helplessly watching her children starve.
Despite the intensive labor and risks involved, shelling walnuts barely pays.
“We get 10 Turkish liras (around $1.5) for cracking open 40 kilograms of walnuts, which could take up to three days,” complained Um Ahmed.
Field activists have reported that hundreds of camps housing thousands of IDPs in northern Syria have not received any humanitarian assistance for nearly three years in a row. This has exacerbated economic and humanitarian suffering of refugees and forced them to engage in dangerous work in exchange for securing life necessities.
Activists have repeatedly called on humanitarian organizations and agencies to set up an urgent plan to help and protect refugees, especially children.
They warned that children are being forced by hardship to turn to delinquency and begging on the streets of cities and markets in order to help their ailing families.