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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

UAE helping hands: Elderly Syrian mother struggles with health and supporting family

The war in her homeland drove Fadwa Al Muarawi to seek a safer environment in the UAE but her sons have been unable to find work and her health is deteriorating, which has led her to a call for help.

Fadwa Al Muarawi's two sons cannot find work in the UAE and she struggles with varicose veins that could lead to deadly blood clots. Chris Whiteoak for The National
Fadwa Al Muarawi's two sons cannot find work in the UAE and she struggles with varicose veins that could lead to deadly blood clots. Chris Whiteoak for The National

Fadwa Al Muarawi had a comfortable life in Syria. If not for the war, she would not be asking for help today, she says.

“When the war broke out, we fled to the UAE in fear of our safety. I quickly sold my house and asked that my belongings be shipped to the UAE,” said the 72-year-old mother of two. Her belongings and family heirlooms never arrived and Ms Al Muarawi’s brother also died a few months ago from the extreme cold in Syria.

“He’s much younger than me and died before his time. It was one of the coldest winters in Syria and I didn’t have money to send to him to buy blankets to keep him warm,” said Ms Al Muarawi, which is an assumed name.

Her brother was 56 when he died and was the only surviving family member apart from her two sons. Ms Al Muarawi’s husband passed away 15 year ago.

“We are grateful to the UAE. We are finally safe and won’t be dying of cold and hunger like many Syrians today,” she says.

However, Ms Al Muarawi’s sons are unemployed and penniless and, although they are safe in the UAE, the family need money for basic necessities such as food, and medicine for Ms Al Muarawi, who suffers from high blood pressure and cholesterol.

She not only requires medication that she can’t afford but also surgery to remove large varicose veins that cover both her legs. “I can’t sleep at night because they burn so much,” she says.

Doctors have warned her that, without surgery, she may develop deadly blood clots. Surgery will cost Dh38,000.

“I have no health insurance and my sons do not work, so they can’t pay for it. We have lost everything we owned in Syria and are trying to get back up but it’s very hard.”

Ms Al Muarawi says she is willing to do anything to raise money to support herself and her family until they find employment. “I am a good cook. In Syria I was known for the dishes I used to do and sell to families,” she says.

Her son is 44 and was once a successful photographer in Syria. “He got a few freelance jobs in the UAE but now even that has stopped,” Ms Al Muarawi says. “He is very talented and has a lot to offer but no one is hiring.”

Adding to their turmoil are residency fines and fees. “My residency expired months ago and I couldn’t afford to renew it and the fines are piling up. I heard that they will exempt Syrians from the fines but I can’t even afford the renewal charges, which are not that high, but it is difficult for us,” she says.

“We have so many problems but I just need help with my surgery costs and anyone to give my sons an opportunity so we can support ourselves. We are ashamed to ask for help but the situation has gotten so difficult for us and going back to our country is not an option.

“In Syria we have lost everything. At least in the UAE we still have a roof of our heads and are not scared that we will be killed by a rocket or gun fire.”

Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of Zakat and Social Services at Dar Al Ber, said: “This is an elderly woman who came to us asking for help and is in extreme pain. A few months ago she had knee replacement surgery and now she needs help for further surgery for her varicose veins.

“She is barely able to move from the pain and her family is going through a difficult situation. We hope readers can help her with the surgery and although it will not help resolve all her problems, it will minimise her agony as a mother who has lost her family, her home and all her belongings.”