WATAN’s journey throughout 2023 embodies the notion that great achievements often arise from great sacrifices, overcoming adversity, and turning challenges into opportunities. Behind every victory lies a story of courage. Reflecting on the extraordinary year of 2023, we faced unforgettable challenges and inspiring achievements. This year has tested our resilience in unexpected ways, particularly with the February 6 earthquake that shook northwestern Syria and southern Turkey. The impact was not only limited to the communities that WATAN tirelessly serves but also to the dedicated employees who found themselves directly affected by this devastating earthquake. This shared experience deepened our employees’ understanding of the immediate needs and long-term impacts and strengthened their dedication to the cause. Despite personal concerns for their families and the devastating loss of their loved ones, the dedicated teams and WATAN employees responded quickly. Many team members faced deep personal tragedies, losing family members, yet their unwavering dedication and selflessness continued.
This remarkable chapter unfolds as a testament to a commitment that transcends hardships, weaves dreams, and fosters hope amidst indelible challenges. Analyzing the pages of this narrative reveals echoes of humanitarian initiatives and triumphs, illustrating the strength, cooperation, and unwavering commitment of these heroes.
In the face of adversity, our employees showcased remarkable resilience, maintaining their tireless efforts, and demonstrated the strength of our collective commitment to shaping a better tomorrow for all. Their stories resonate with the broader narrative of WATAN’s journey through 2023, a year marked by challenges met with compassion and a shared determination to make a positive impact.
As we stand on the brink of a new year, let us collectively pause and reflect on the defining chapters of 2023. Despite the enormous obstacles, WATAN stood steadfast, intensified its humanitarian efforts, and reaffirmed its commitment to families struggling in the wake of disasters.
Following the February earthquake, the first response by WATAN medical teams was at Al Amal Hospital as a main evacuation point. Medical care teams provided more than 100 major surgeries and more than 1,000 ambulance services on the night of the disaster, overcoming challenges to provide support and service to the injured. WATAN’s teams also succeeded in establishing 900 shelter units in temporary centers, and in cooperation with donors, additional housing units were quickly secured to meet the needs of those affected.
In southern Turkey, WATAN teams were strategically deployed across all affected regions and cities. Operating tirelessly day and night. They urgently distributed essential food baskets and personal hygiene items to communities and camps, persevering under challenging climatic conditions.
Later, WATAN worked in cooperation with the German Caritas to provide the necessary support to those affected by the earthquake, by providing services for distributing garbage containers and hygiene supplies. Three washing stations were also installed in temporary shelters. WATAN provided financial support to 275 families through electronic cards, charging them monthly for 5 months in the Turkish Gokcen region.
The spirit of solidarity was embodied this year during the holy month of Ramadan in an exceptional manner, as preparations to welcome this holy month witnessed a radical change from previous years. Homes were not prepared in the traditional way, but canvas tents became the only shelter for many during those days. In this context, WATAN’s teams showed a wonderful response to these exceptional circumstances, as they organized group iftars in camps in northwestern Syria, reflecting the spirit of familiarity and solidarity between families. Their support was not limited to the month of Ramadan only but also continued to provide support to affected families in those areas, by distributing food baskets and providing financial aid in the Idlib countryside.
With the end of the month of Ramadan, the celebrations did not stop, but rather continued with the holidays, as WATAN teams participated in adding an atmosphere of joy and happiness to the lives of children in the camps. By organizing an entertaining party, this celebration added unforgettable moments amid the difficult situations they were going through.
With the escalation of needs in northwestern Syria and the increasing poverty rate in this region, WATAN provided vital support to the families most in need. Through individual donations, one inspiring story is that of Umm Mamoun, a mother of seven children who lives in a camp in northern Syria. Through generous support, the organization supported Umm Mamoun in setting up a small stall to sell food and vegetables. As a result of this wonderful initiative, she now has a sustainable source of income, allowing her to provide a decent life for her family.
In addition, WATAN provided electric wheelchairs to Fatima and Asmaa, who live in camps in northwestern Syria. They benefited greatly from these services, as they contributed to improving their movement and interaction with their surroundings, including positive interaction with their peers.
As part of its continued support, WATAN’s efforts have clearly emerged in taking decisive measures to ease the burden on the residents of the northwestern regions of Syria, especially with regard to the issue of drinking water. These efforts were launched by restarting the water stations in the city of Jisr al-Shughur after a long period of cessation, and also included the establishment of highly efficient water tanks in Jisr al-Shughur and Hazano, aiming to ensure durable water sources for the region. Emphasizing its commitment to clean energy, WATAN has moved to operating water plants using renewable energy, by establishing innovative solar energy systems in Jisr Al-Shughur and Hazano. These efforts go beyond the usual and reflect the effective integration of multiple specialized teams, with the goal of ending long-standing suffering.
WATAN also succeeded in implementing the largest sanitation project in the Harem region. The extension of sewage lines in Azmarin, Harem, and Basnia put an end to years of epidemic-related suffering.
The importance of establishing a safe and decent shelter for families affected by earthquakes or displaced due to repeated attacks, as this measure contributes to providing protection and comfort for vulnerable individuals. Through collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we established integrated camps in northwestern Syria, featuring 2,131 RHU-type housing units across 14 locations and 300 sandwich panel units in key areas north of Idlib. Overcoming shelter challenges, we built comprehensive infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, night lighting, and paved roads, creating safe and sustainable environments for the displaced. In partnership with UNHCR, we organized distribution services for non-food item baskets and winter clothing, reaching over 50,501 displaced individuals, addressing their needs during the harsh winter season.
Furthermore, we have undertaken a comprehensive rehabilitation of Al-Wefaq camp in the Idlib countryside. Through advanced engineering efforts, we implemented infrastructure improvements and installed 292 innovative fire-resistant housing units as an alternative to canvas tents, effectively addressing the challenges posed by the cold winter weather. In order to contribute to improving their quality of life with dignity, we participated in building the ‘Residential Village of Excellence’, which includes 50 housing units made of concrete, in full coordination with the Kuwaiti Humanitarian Excellence Society.
As part of our efforts to promote sustainable agriculture, we have implemented innovative projects to reduce the burden on farmers. These efforts included the distribution of vital agricultural inputs, such as cucumber and tomato seedlings and organic fertilizer. These projects successfully reached and benefited more than 1,000 farmers. In addition, we provided the resources needed to improve their land cultivation and generate a sustainable income. To preserve the olive tree as a main source of income, we launched a project to support the value chain of agricultural products, by forming associations to support olive farmers and a women’s association specialized in growing vegetables. One of the project’s goals was to provide support to more than 476 olive farmers in the Idlib countryside during the various stages of cultivation.
The innovative spirit in the field of agriculture was embodied by the launch of the hydroponics project in the Aleppo countryside, which contributed to providing summer vegetables with high quality and productivity throughout the year. Our commitment extended beyond distribution; we provided training to small farmers on utilizing this technology effectively. This initiative significantly contributed to developing and enhancing their agricultural capabilities. In the livestock sector, there was a notable transformation for livestock breeders in the Idlib countryside during the field vaccination campaigns organized by WATAN in March and April of 2023. Over 7,532 cow and sheep breeders directly benefited from these campaigns, ensuring effective protection for animals and safeguarding vital resources.
In addition, WATAN provided comprehensive support to farmers in the Turkish Gokcen region, providing agricultural and animal inputs to 140 farms worth $330. These inputs included agricultural fertilizers, veterinary treatments, and fodder, enhancing agricultural production and ensuring food safety in three different villages.
As part of our commitment to support the humanitarian situation, WATAN initiated a project to distribute cash aid to families affected by the earthquake. An amount of $100 was allocated for four months to 353 families in the town of Taftanaz in rural Idlib, starting in December 2023, to provide the necessary financial support to meet their basic needs. Before that, the organization implemented a cash voucher distribution project in the northern Aleppo countryside, where these vouchers were directed to shops specialized in providing basic food items for every family, which contributed to improving living conditions and enhancing food security in the region.
After many homes were damaged in rural towns in Idlib, WATAN implemented a project aimed at rehabilitating 248 homes in Batbo, Killi, and Hazano. The teams working on the project successfully completed the rehabilitation operations, which contributed significantly to restoring normalcy to the affected families. The teams’ efforts extended beyond home rehabilitation to include restoration operations for five schools in the Soran Azaz area in the Aleppo countryside. The organization not only rebuilt the education infrastructure but also contributed to revitalizing the education process that had been halted as a result of school damage.
In the realm of healthcare, WATAN is emerging as a leader in northwestern Syria, showcasing innovative efforts dedicated to saving lives. The organization seamlessly integrated its efforts into the blood bank network project, as it operated specialized vehicles equipped with all the necessary supplies to collect blood. The organization has achieved tangible success in this vital mission, as it succeeded in collecting 19,559 units of blood of different types from the beginning of September 2023 until the end of the year.
However, WATAN’s efforts were not limited to blood transfusion only but also contributed to the opening of a specialized center for treating thalassemia patients in the city of Salqin in the Idlib countryside. This center provides blood transfusion services and the provision of necessary medications to thalassemia patients in that region. The organization also launched two blood banks in the Jericho area and the city of Al-Bab, with the aim of meeting the hospitals’ needs for blood units.
With the increase in needs and the constant need to secure medicines, WATAN launched the ‘Afiya’ project in the northern Aleppo countryside. This initiative involves distributing medication vouchers to individuals with chronic diseases in the region, ensuring a consistent and ongoing supply of medications for them. Through these innovative initiatives, WATAN continues to stand as a symbol of humanity and healthcare in the region, persistently working to make a positive and effective impact and save lives effectively.
WATAN’s emergency response this year was not limited to Syria and Turkey. In September, Morocco experienced a devastating earthquake that caused widespread destruction, leading numerous families to seek refuge in public parks. In this context, WATAN and the Basma Housing Association in Morocco were fully prepared to cooperate, as they built tents to provide temporary shelter for the affected families. These humanitarian efforts continued to provide aid and support to those affected, achieving tangible achievements in the face of urgent humanitarian challenges.
As we conclude this extraordinary year, we look forward with hope and optimism to a new year ahead. Let us always remember that we are capable of overcoming challenges and building a better tomorrow. We proudly look at our achievements, and we pledge to continue working together and providing support to each other. As we conclude this chapter, we extend our best wishes for the future, looking forward to further progress and prosperity. We thank every individual who played a role in shaping this year, whether through support, sacrifice, or simply being present. Our strength lies not only in our ability to face difficulties but also in our ability to stand up and smile despite the circumstances. Amidst tragedy, we find strength in solidarity, and from every suffering emerges human dignity and inner strength. With this, we are preparing to enter a new year, with our dreams and ambitions, ready to build a better future. With great anticipation, we bid farewell to 2023 and welcome a new year full of hope and challenges. Let us together defy circumstances and build a more beautiful and better tomorrow.