On a sunny morning in late February, my colleague Nour and I traveled to Wadi Zeni to visit a Syrian family receiving cash assistance under the Lebanon Cash consortium (LCC). A woman in a scarf wearing a blue cardigan standing at the side of the road waves at us as we are pulling. She directs us into a bumpy road leading to her home. Outside of the building two children wearing thick blazers are playing in the sun.
Getting out of the car we meet, Kawkab, a 45-year old Syrian woman who invites us to her home. She lives in a two room apartment at the bottom floor of a four story building together with 10 other family members. Although the sun were shining outside a breeze of cold swipes through their home of bared walls. “It is always cold in here but we cannot afford to live in another place, rents here are too expensive and we have already been evicted before. Today, if it was not for the LCC assistance we would not be able to pay the rent here either,” says Kawkab.
She continues, “the situation in Lebanon is not sustainable, we can't continue like this, and the Lebanese community is already over stretched. My husband is sick so he cannot work to provide for us that is why the LCC assistance of 175 USD is so important to make ends meet. One time we received several transfers at once and it saved us from being evicted again. Really, we would not survive without it.”
Kawkab’s daughter in law and her three children stays with them after her husband abandoned his family to travel to Europe. Therefore his family is their responsibility now. “My son’s financial situation changed after fleeing Syria, he was stressed and angry all the times and he always fought with his wife. One day he could not handle it any longer and just disappeared, several months later we learned that he was in Germany, “ says Kawkab.
Two of the young boys in the family are working to support their parents. Ahmad, 9, is selling chewing gum on the streets while Abdullah, 11, works as a delivery boy. Abdullah looks at us with a smile saying, “what can we do, we have to survive. I work unconditionally hard and I would do anything in the world for the sake of my family. God will bring better days upon us.”
It is amazing how this young boy can still smile and find happiness despite the weight on his shoulders. He works 12 hour shifts at a local restaurant in the area earning a few dollars a day but he is still very motivated. “Of course I wish I could go to school, I envy the children who can but I cannot think about myself in this situation because I have to take care of my parents, younger siblings and nephews,” Abdullah continues. He enjoys his work as he has employer who treats him well and cares for him. “Children around us are always mean and harasses me but my employer defends me and talks to their parents telling them to stop,“ says Abdullah.
“You know, the hardest thing in life is remembering the past knowing that we used to have a decent life but now we are like chickens in a chicken shed. In Syria we lived in our own house and we never worried. We were all living together and very happy, today my son left us, my daughter was resettled to Great Britain and my young children are working to provide for us. Look how the world turns life around, our family has been shattered, and it breaks my heart,” says Kawkab with tears in her eyes.
“My only wish today is that our whole family will be reunited, that’s when I will see true happiness in my mother’s eyes once again. When my family is happy that is when I will be truly happy,” says Abdullah before he rush of to work.
In March 2016 the world is marking the fifth year anniversary of the Syrian crisis. The crisis has left more than 6.6 million internally displaced, over 4.6 million have been forced to flee to neighboring countries. The past year, hundreds of thousands Syrians have risked their lives traveling over the seas on boats with hope to secure brighter futures for their families in Europe. The war has scattered families and broken more hearts than anyone could ever count. Most affected are women and children. Millions of Syrians continue to suffer and the humanitarian needs are greater than ever. In Lebanon, efforts like the Lebanon Cash Consortium where six INGOs provide multi-purpose cash assistance to Syrian refugees are extremely vital to meet their basic needs. It is a more cost effective and efficient form of assistance where refugees benefiting from the LCC assistance have reported to feel more safe and stable as theiy are able to make their own choices on how to spend the assistance. However, despite all the efforts made enourmous support is still needed to prevent children like Adullah to lose their childhood, be pulled out of school and stop feeling safe and secure. The war has to come to an end and we all have to work for it.
Racha El Daoi, Communications and Advocacy officer, CARE