NEW ROADS REVIVE LIFE IN CAMPS
Roads have been an important staple of human development for thousands of years. According to archeologists, the oldest paved roads date back to about 4000 B.C. Just like everything is affected during the war, roads in Syria have been impacted by the events taking place there for the past 10 years. BINAA for Development intervened with the aim of rehabilitating and maintaining old roads and building new ones where needed.
Zakaria Al-Baderli, one of the supervising engineers in the BINAA maintenance crew, outlined the project’s objectives as follows: “The main purpose of this project is to rehabilitate roads in order to facilitate the movement of people to and from camps.” He also highlighted the scope of the current campaign by explaining that “[the crew] was able to pave an estimated 31 km distributed over 20 roads in the areas of Ma’aret Misrin, Jabal Kili, Kafr Jales, Al-Sheikh Bahr and Kafr Ta’anour, located in Northern rural Idlib.”
Today, one of the maintenance teams of BINAA is building a rain canal next to a main road in rural Idlib. In his description of the project, Zakaria adds: “Our teams are currently working on building rain canals in order to prevent flooding inside the camps and to protect the road’s main structure”, explaining that such initiatives are labeled as “early recovery projects”, and that they contribute to “reviving the area by facilitating the movement of people and cars.”
"Such initiatives are labeled as early recovery projects. They contribute to reviving the area by facilitating the movement of people and cars,” Zakaria Al-Baderli, one of the supervising engineers in the BINAA maintenance crew
In addition, we were able to meet with one of the construction workers in the area, Abdullah, who also emphasized the importance of this project: “The area benefited greatly from this initiative which prevented the camps from flooding.”
Abdullah, a member of the maintenance crew, was sitting on a pile of rocks that will eventually be cracked and used in the construction of the drainage canal. Behind him were large eucalyptus trees casting their shadows over members of the team as they split stones, paved them, and fixed the blocks with cement.
While adjusting the protective yellow helmet on his head, Abdullah gives insight on the situation prior to the rehabilitation process: “Before paving the road, one had to walk around 17 km to buy basic supplies. Today, the distance has decreased to no more than 2 or 3 km.” Furthermore, he calls attention to the opportunities that the new road has provided: “New blacksmith shops and pharmacies have opened. The roads contributed to the revival of the area and the camps. The project is a good one.”
Indeed, the project did contribute to the revival of the area. Mohammed, another member of the maintenance and rehabilitation crew also spoke of the positive impact of the project after introducing himself to us: “I am from rural Aleppo. I am 33 years old, displaced, and currently residing in the town of Al-Sheikh Bahr.”
“For me, the project revived the area in general…Previously, there weren’t any roads. One had to walk for at least 10 or 15 km. Now that new roads have been built, the camps have become more alive. Anything you want is now available. The project brought the area to life.”
At 24-year old, Abdullah is still young, yet he carries great responsibilities on his shoulders: “I am the only breadwinner in my family and in my brother’s family who died as a martyr in the war.”
He describes his situation before starting work: “It was very difficult, especially with the deterioration of the local currency against the U.S. Dollar. I had no job and could not secure any of the basic necessities, let alone bread. It was almost impossible to do anything without being in debt.” However, his circumstances fortunately changed due to the cash-for-work initiative implemented by Binaa. Abdullah adds: “Now that I have been accepted into the project, I gained a lot. A worker gets paid daily, secures his income, and saves from it.”
Mohammad’s situation was quite similar as he was also responsible for two families. Despite his previous job in the field of trade, “after displacement, we were left with nothing”, he explains with a sigh.
Originally from rural Aleppo, 33-year-old Mohammad spoke to us for a few minutes during his break. Both the suit he was wearing and his calloused hands mirrored his commitment and the effort he puts into his work. He shared with us the story of how he joined the crew and highlighted the significance of cash-for-work initiatives, while describing them as “important opportunities.” He adds: “I applied for the project, and they accepted me. I consider it a great opportunity for myself and other young people in the camp.”
Binaa’s initiatives now include emergency responses related to repairing main roads that have been affected or damaged due to floods and rain in rural Idlib. The importance of this initiative lies in its timing, which coincides with the winter season, since it contributes to the enhancement of road safety, decreasing by that accidents, traffic jams, and road blocks.
The road maintenance project currently underway is a part in a series of projects to construct, restore, and rehabilitate roads in rural Idlib. Binaa is also working on other initiatives related to restoring unfinished houses, responding to health-related needs, and providing other relief services. What is remarkable is the fact that all of those projects are linked, one way or another, to the cash-for-work programme.
Binaa for Development is a grassroots organisation whose team is mainly composed of members of the local community. This allows the organization to identify local needs and understand difficulties experienced by both the displaced and the locals.