FAO staff speak – a personal account from the Syrian Arab Republic

FAO staff speak – a personal account from the Syrian Arab Republic


“I could not be with my family to comfort them and they couldn’t come to stay with me in Damascus because of transportation and security concerns. We were all stressed and worried.”

Haya Abu Assaf, FAO Programme Officer, Damascus office, Syrian Arab Republic

25 July 2018 was not an ordinary day. More than 200 people were killed in an attack  in As-Sweida and nearby towns and villages in the southwestern region of the country. FAO staff member Haya Abu Assaf lives in Damascus and is originally from As-Sweida. This is her message on World Humanitarian Day.

“As-Sweida is my family, my land, my history and my memories. I wait for weekends to see my sisters to spend time with the most important people to me,” Haya says.

“That day, the day of the attack, changed everything – it shocked us all. My usual trip to As-Sweida was cancelled due to security concerns and I couldn’t be with my family and neighbours to support or help. I was afraid to hear about more attacks on my city. What would I do if this were to happen? How would I protect my family from any harm?” she says. “People are still mourning the loss of loved ones and are still expressing their frustrations.”

Prior to the crisis, agriculture was an important livelihood source for almost 95 percent of As-Sweida’s population. Eight years of crisis has put pressure on vulnerable farmers and herders. They no longer have access to the grazing lands in nearby Al-Badia due to the unsafe situation, and have therefore lost their main source of animal feed, exacerbating vulnerabilities.

Some herders were forced to sell their sheep and goats. Lack of agricultural inputs due to unavailability or increasingly high prices have prevented farmers from growing wheat and barley. Harvesting activities were also blocked as a result of the unstable security situation.

During eight years of crisis, FAO has focused on strengthening the resilience of vulnerable farmers in the Syrian Arab Republic – to improve livelihoods, food security and nutrition and restore the agriculture sector. Conflict has taken a toll on farmers and herders. They are #NotATarget.