Abu Nidal, 65, has not been used to waking up early; he has grown tired and lacked energy as he grew older and became diabetic.
When the phone rang on this particular morning, however, it drew a wide smile on his crooked mouth, one he has rarely shown since the beginning of the Syrian revolution.
“The aid has arrived,” Abu Nidal thought, answering the call.
People now race to reach to the distribution points early and struggle as they wait for their share of the aid distributed by UNRWA for Palestinian families in Syria.
Abu Nidal regained his lost energy and quickly called his brother so that they could go together to keep each other company during the long wait.
Abu Nidal is a father of four. He worked as a public servant for 25 years, only to find himself unemployed and on a pension that hardly sustains he and his family. Nonetheless, he says, he thanks God that he miraculously managed to buy a modest home in Jdaydet Artouz in Damascus Suburbs to shelter his wife and children.
As the economic crisis in Syria was exacerbated, Mohamed, 26, and Anass, 29, found it hard to find jobs to assist their elderly father. So Mohamed joined the ranks of the Free Syrian Army while Anass worked in relief and aid distribution. Hiba, his youngest daughter, married at an early age and has now become a mother of two young girls.
“I was once lucky to receive a large share of aid including sheets and mattresses in addition to large oil bottles among other things,” Hiba says.
“When my mother-in-law, who had received a smaller share, learned about this, she was extremely jealous and almost called for a divorce.”
Nidal,the eldest son, remains his father’s only hope to rescue the family from their current dilemma. Everybody believes in his unique gift; Nidal has been a great swimmer since he was young. He is highly ambitious and hopes his hard work will earn him sucess. He is now trying to save the necessary amount of money to be smuggled across the sea to any European country where he says he would secure a better future for himself and his family.
Nidal spends most of his time working at a nearby store hoping he will achieve his aspirations. The little spare time he has left, he spends listening to family discussions which have become focused on aid and UNRWA distributions.
“When my uncle’s wife –who loves money – learned that UNRWA distributes cash aid to Palestinians regularly, she tried very hard to register herself, even though she is Syrian and does not need the money since she is wealthy,” he said.
“Despite using her connections, she failed and we started teasing her whenever we see her.”
Anass, who keeps his aid work secret, lest relatives bother him with requests, says that he recently learned that many people who receive the aid are selling it.
"Often to the same person from whom we bought the goods, and at a lower price, although we try to get the best product at the lowest price. This has become a trade for many,” he explains.
Umm Nidal, who has one son fighting with the FSA, talks about her prior belief in the victory of the Syrian revolution and how she has now surrendered to the misery and suffering of Syrians and Palestinians in Syria. She says she is startled every time she learns of a death caused by starvation under siege. She is still grieving the death of her relative’s baby girl who was only 40 days old when she died two months ago in the besieged Yarmouk camp.
Umm Nidal says she feels guilty every time she prepares food for her family while many of her relatives are dying in Yarmouk.
"It cannot be helped though," she says, "life and death have become the same here," she believes.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer