Lights off on Syria: it’s an emergency

Amy Rodriguez11 June 2021

Two hours with electricity each day. Two Ampere each week for a total of 2€, 3.000 Syrian Pounds. Public electricity is enough for 4 lightbulbs, or 1 lightbulb and a fridge, to work for, again, just two hours, usually around midday and midnight. 

Then lights turn off in Syria. The night compares to the energy crisis that still hunts the Country where the States and the European Union forced an embargo on oil. The Syrian population is begging for help. 

Economic crisis and light emergency 

The unemployment rate is skyrocketing in Syria. Those lucky enough to still have a job, get a monthly salary of 650,000 Syrian Pounds on the average, less than 500€. People are using their savings to buy power generators fueled by petrol. 

After many hours in line, sometimes even a day worth of waiting, for petrol, the luckiest ones can turn on the generators for a few hours. Those that could not gather enough fuel have no other choice but to buy it from the black market at ridiculously inflated prices. 

Families and condos dealt with the problem by having two sets of switchboards: a standard one and one that turns on when the public electricity is switched off. If one of the families in the building is not able to provide their contribution to buy fuel for the power generator, nobody will get electricity. 

Hospitals are maybe the only ones with a 24 hours power supply whilst, in public and private buildings, appliances and computers can be turned on for a few minutes per day and all at the same time. This usually ends up in a big blackout. 

When life revolves around a light-bulb

The entire daily routine, working and private one, of Syrian people, revolves around those few hours when, miraculously, electricity is working. The one suffering the most from the situation are kids attending school: the chronic unavailability of electricity made online teaching impossible. 

The State, therefore, decided to end the scholastic year months in advance. The number of children and teenagers dropping out of school has dramatically increased. Underage employment  has become a sad reality. 

Those working regular jobs in the secondary and third sector that survived a huge wave of dismissals, have now to deal with a completely flipped over routine. 

Power network and responsibility network 

Where there is no electricity network, another network was born: a responsibility one between families. Syrians had to face another crisis with a new awareness: only united they will find a solution

The apartment blocks and neighbourhoods became small communities sharing the few resources still available in order to survive. 

Thanks to this down-up initiative, thanks to the support of Pro Terra Sancta local staff and the help of our donors, we could exploit this responsibility network and help more than 300 families from February 2020. 

With a small financial support we can help a family to buy enough fuel to generate a month’s worth of electricity. Yet, the number of people asking for help is increasing and the total of families asking us for support adds up to 3000

Pro Terra Sancta answer to the light emergency 

Pro Terra Sancta wants to develop a project answering to an immediate need: have the minimum amount of energy to survive and, in the long-term, find alternative energy sources guaranteeing a constant refueling of electricity. 

We clearly don’t think enough about how lucky we are when we turn on a switch. Next time you turn a light on, think about doing it in Syria, for Syria.