NFI – Non-Food Items: Providing everyday dignity and winter warmth

A familiar tragedy is repeated daily in Syria. Life has taken a drastic turn for the thousands of Syrians who have been forced to leave their homes.

“Most of our belongings were stolen and, at one point, we found ourselves in the cross fire, and miraculously survived the barrel bomb,” said a man displaced to Afrin. “We did not bring anything with us. We were really suffering until we could afford to buy the most essential items.”

His situation is not unusual. Almost 10 million people are lacking basic items in Syria and the rate of poverty is increasing. Some have attempted to return to their homes to save their belongings, despite heavy shelling. Providing the most essential items prevents people from descending into deeper poverty and deters them from risking their lives.

The first challenge for those fleeing their homes is what to eat and how to prepare food. Relief agencies respond by distributing food baskets. However, many lack the necessary tools for food preparation. After mass displacement in Idleb during the spring of 2015, the problem became apparent among the fleeing population. Bihar distributed 1,500 kitchen sets among the displaced, providing short-term relief and longer-term self-reliance.

The winters in Syria have shown little mercy to the displaced populations. Heavy snowfalls and temperatures plunging to minus 10 degrees Celsius make life in camps a public health concern. In harsh living conditions, blankets can no longer be taken for granted, as before the war. Warm clothes have also gained new value among displaced Syrians, with people desperately starting looking for winter clothes long before the season begins. Poverty has also caused social problems, leading to “tensions within the family, mostly because there are no solutions for the challenges,” says a woman originally from Aleppo. For displaced Syrians and refugees living in such harsh conditions, Bihar has distributed clothing, bedding and tents. Bihar has conducted seven different NFI projects, distributing more than 130,000 kits in both Syria and Turkey.