Every morning, when the weather is good, Abdallah Mohammad al-Sahli sits on one of the benches in the sunny courtyard of the Damascus Training Centre collective shelter. The 77-year-old usually likes to walk around and enjoy the relative calm, away from the crowded shelter.
"Our life was disrupted. We have exhausted our savings. So many live on the edge,” explains Abdallah, reflecting on the difficult situation that most Palestine refugees face as a result of the six-year conflict. As it continues, the conflict has led to deteriorating socioeconomic conditions; for the elderly, the war has been especially harsh. Due to his age, Abdallah cannot work, and he and his sick wife rely entirely on UNRWA assistance.
Abdallah has been living in the collective shelter since the summer of 2012, when tensions in Yarmouk, a district in Damascus populated by Palestinians, forced him to leave his home and move to Jaramana camp, 8 km from Damascus. In Jaramana, Abdallah was able to rent a small house for his family, but when the landlord increased the rent, they couldn’t afford the costs and had to leave. Their only option was to go to the UNRWA collective shelter in the Damascus Training Centre.
“The crisis embroiled us and has now overwhelmed most of the Palestine refugees in Syria, causing extreme hardship and widespread displacement. It has separated a lot of families," says Abdallah, whose own family was split apart by the crisis. He lives with his wife and his son in the shelter, but his daughter is now in Europe. She embarked on the perilous journey to Europe to escape the difficult situation in Syria and to be able to make a living.
Despite the difficulties, Abdallah flashes a bright smile when talking about his life before the war. Abdallah used to sell liquorice and tamarind juice in the streets of the crowded and lively Yarmouk. “But these days are long gone,” Abdallah says nostalgically.