Migrants from Daraa seek someone to care for their parents

Two women in al-Kashef neighborhood in the city of Daraa, southern Syria - February 17, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)

Two women in al-Kashef neighborhood in the city of Daraa, southern Syria - February 17, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)

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Daraa – Sarah al-Ahmad

Since the death of his mother in the city of Daraa four years ago, young Mamoun al-Dahni has been living in a state of worry about his elderly father, who is 70 years old and needs care and attention.

Al-Dahni, who has been living with his brother Firas in the Netherlands for six years, said their concern has grown even greater since their father suffered a hip fracture six months ago. He began to search through social media, as well as some acquaintances and relatives, for someone to take care of his father in exchange for a monthly salary.

Since the increase in the migration of the young population in general from Syria and from Daraa in particular, many expatriates have begun to search for someone to take care of their elderly relatives, after the deteriorating security, living, and economic reality forced the children to travel for years.

Searching for a caretaker

After about a month of searching, the young man managed to get in touch with a young married couple from the western countryside of Daraa. The husband works on a cart selling sweets within the city.

Initially, al-Dahni was not keen on the caretaker being a married man, but his urgent need for someone to clean the house and prepare food for his father forced him to accept.

Al-Dahni said the young man agreed to take care of his father for a monthly salary of 500,000 Syrian pounds, independent of his father’s expenses, food and needs, bringing the monthly costs including the caretaker’s salary to three million Syrian pounds.

Reem al-Akrad’s story is no different. She is a girl who migrated to Sweden with her brother for fear of facing the same fate as her other brother, who was arrested by the regime forces eight years ago, leaving their mother without a care giver.

Al-Akrad said that her mother bore the responsibility of caring for her father until his death five years ago. But since last year, her illnesses have increased, and she is no longer able to meet her household needs, prepare food, perform cleaning tasks, and take care of herself.

The young woman told Enab Baladi that she had no choice but to search for a girl to care for her mother and stay by her side in exchange for a monthly salary.

Al-Akrad mentioned that she was fortunate to find a 35-year-old widow (without children) and agreed to let her live at her mother’s house for a sum of 800,000 Syrian pounds (about 55 US dollars).

The selling price of one US dollar against the Syrian pound is 14,650 Syrian pounds, according to the S-P Today website, which specializes in currency exchange rates, and the minimum government salary in Syria is about 279,000 Syrian pounds (19.3 dollars).

Avoiding nursing homes

There are 20 licensed private elderly care homes in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, with two government homes, “Al-Karama” in Damascus and “Mabarrat Al-Awqaf” in Aleppo, which are managed in cooperation with civil society and primarily depend on donations.

The cost of housing the elderly in these homes has increased to about 18 million Syrian pounds per resident per year, not including medication and surgical costs.

Ahmed Barmawi, a young man from Daraa who traveled to Germany in 2015 after getting out of the regime’s prisons, said that his father and mother live without a care provider, and over the years their health has started to deteriorate.

The young man is an only child and has a sister who also traveled to the United States with her husband in 2013, leaving their parents alone, where they reside in the city of Daraa without a caretaker.

Barmawi told Enab Baladi that his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year and a half ago and is no longer able to meet the household needs and buy its necessities.

Barmawi did not accept what his friends in the diaspora suggested to him, putting his parents in an elderly home in Damascus to care for them in exchange for 1.5 million Syrian pounds monthly, due to the lack of senior care centers in Daraa.

Barmawi mentioned that he could not accept this idea in his local community, nor trust the care of the nursing home for his parents. It led him to look for a lady to provide for them during the day only and to meet their requirements and needs.

After searching and asking, the young man agreed with a woman he said was trustworthy, a 30-year-old divorcee, in exchange for a monthly salary of 450,000 Syrian pounds.

Facing difficulties

Syria is witnessing an increasing number of elderly people, estimated at about 7.2% of the population in 2015, equivalent to 1.7 million people, according to estimates by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

ESCWA predicted that the figure would reach 13% by the year 2050, equivalent to 5.7 million people.

Adham Samara from the city of Daraa, a volunteer in the Ecumenical Relations and Development Department at the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox, told Enab Baladi that the increasing numbers of elderly people have become noticeable, with the absence of a care provider for them, pointing out that many of them enter a psychological state that needs psychological counselors and continuous follow-up.

He added that he sees many painful stories of the elderly, although there is a temporary caretaker instead of the children, but that does not compensate the parents for the presence of their sons.

Samara remembered a phrase from one of the elderly in the city of Izraa, which is still stuck in his memory, “I wish one of my children remained, who will bury me when I die, may God ease their lives. It’s the end for us, what matters is that they are fine.”

Samara explained that the man did not mean to keep one of his sons just to bury him but that this is some of what the elderly repeat in lamenting their situations after their children’s absence.

He pointed out that the Department of Relations conducts activities for the elderly in various areas of Daraa, on October 1st every year, on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons.

The elderly in Syria suffer economic, social, and health difficulties, at a time when 90% of Syrians live below the poverty line, and 12.9 million people suffer from food insecurity.

 

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