• Miko Alazas | Media and Communications Officer

Imagine living in a tent for six years. No access to electricity. No running water. No privacy. 

This became Khaled’s reality when, like millions of others in Syria, he had to flee his home due to the war. 

One tent for himself, his wife and four children. 

The harsh winters were the worst part of it, he recalls. “Every year, we had to put stones around the tent to prevent it from flying.” 

Each morning was an arduous trek to refill their water tank. 

Today, Khaled’s family now lives in a new dignified shelter unit, offering some respite amidst life in displacement. 

160 households in Khaled's community received dignified shelters. Photo: IOM

“It has made a huge difference – a big psychological relief,” Khaled expresses. 

The dignified shelter is a prefabricated shelter unit composed of a steel frame, lockable entrance and solar-powered lighting system. Each unit has a kitchen, living area and hygiene facilities. 

“We used to have a common space for toilets, which was not good for women and girls. Now, we have private toilets.” 

Khaled is also thrilled to have a kitchen for the first time in years. He remembers having to cook outside their tent – their only choice despite the risk of fire. 

Khaled’s community is one of three sites where IOM and the International Humanitarian Relief Association (IYD), with the support of the European Union, are installing dignified shelters. 

“We are all happy and relieved here. We no longer have this tense situation due to our hard living conditions.” 

As another summer approaches, Khaled feels fortunate that he will spend this one with electricity to power a fan. 

Khaled now has access to running water is critical, which is critical to prevent diseases like cholera. Photo: IOM Ahmet Abdulhamit

In total, since 2022, IOM has installed over 8,100 dignified shelter units in the Aleppo and Idleb Governorates. 

“This offers a significant improvement in living conditions for families displaced for years. It is also cost-effective and sustainable, as we continue to face steep funding cuts for the humanitarian response in Northwest Syria,” says Claudia Natali, IOM Türkiye Deputy Chief of Mission. 

For the cost of two tents, which need to be replaced every six months, a dignified shelter can last up to ten years, with better privacy and durability. 

IOM and IYD are further rehabilitating and expanding the water network and linking each household to it, ensuring that families have continuous access to clean water. Previously, they had to rely on refilling water tanks or organizations conducting water trucking. 

As part of a multisectoral response, Khaled’s family also received six rounds of multipurpose cash assistance. “It was very helpful in letting us meet our basic needs.” 


After 13 years of war in Syria, Khaled longs for calmer times. Photo: IOM/Ahmet Abdulhamit

Despite collective efforts, conditions remain dire for 4.2 million people in Northwest Syria still in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 800,000 continue to live in flimsy tents. 

Although Khaled and his family now go to sleep better at night, his next target is to find a job. He has been relying on his son who works in seasonal agriculture. 

With no solution in sight to the conflict, Khaled’s memories of peace and safety fade more and more each day. 

“It’s great to have a new home, but it will never be better than my old home. I hope one day everything will be resolved, so that I can go back and rebuild my home.” 


IOM’s work to install dignified shelters in Northwest Syria is made possible by the European Union, German Federal Foreign Office, Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund and UN Central Emergency Response Fund. 

Written by Miko Alazas, IOM Türkiye Media and Communications Officer