These families had just spent 18 hours under fire without being able to escape. They had stayed in northern Aleppo throughout the blockade, which had lasted several months, with limited access to water, food or blankets to protect them from the cold Syrian winter.

They rushed to get out of the buses for water and a meal. In the middle of the crowd, I saw a frail boy named Hamza, who is nine years old. He was unable to feed himself, as he was too weak.

I got closer to him and held a biscuit so that he could eat it from me. I was a few meters away when Hamza moved his body to identify who was trying to reach him. But he couldn’t look at me – it was then that I realised Hamza is blind.

I got closer and I handed him the biscuit. He said, “Thank you, uncle. My dad was killed in an airstrike.” He then told me his story about the loss of family and friends and the subsequent displacement. I put my hand on his head and I recalled at that moment when I left my hometown of Homs four years ago on a similarly cold day. I have never been able to return to my home.

Before leaving Hamza to help the others, I told him “You are in a safe place now. What do you need?” He replied, “Another piece of biscuit for my younger brother!”

Hamza now lives with his mother and brothers in the northern Idlib internally displaced persons camp, which was allocated for the people fleeing Aleppo. He still dreams to return to his hometown.

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