Amira Rostom from Homs, Syria, fled to Lebanon in May 2014 after her house was destroyed in an aerial bomb attack, which also killed her husband. With her daughter and three sons, Amira now lives in an unfinished building on the highway close to Tleil village in Akkar, northern Lebanon. Since February 2015 she has received 260,000 Lebanese pounds ($175) each month from the International Rescue Committee and the Lebanon Cash Consortium.
My first months in Lebanon were very hard. We used to live in a small garage. It was just a single room with a small sink in the corner. There wasn’t even a window and it would get very hot and humid in the summer. There was no furniture; we just had to borrow blankets from neighbors just so we could sit on the floor.
It was also very expensive. I had to pay 200,000 plus the cost of water and electricity. I was only able to pay because the International Rescue Committee (IRC) gave me emergency financial support for three months. When that ran out I really struggled to pay the rent and sometimes I didn’t.
At the time I wasn’t given any World Food Program (WFP) food aid support, so I lived off food packages from other NGOs to feed my family.
It was a really stressful time for me. I can’t work because I have health problems. I was starting to think I had no choice but to take my children out of school and send them to work.
I started crying with joy when I was told I would get help from the Lebanon Cash Consortium. It was such a relief. I felt I finally had someone who had my back, that I had someone I could rely on.
I didn’t have any proper kitchen utensils or crockery, so with the first money I received I bought cups and cutlery. I remember I also bought potatoes and onions to cook for my family. Everyone thought it was delicious.
The rest of the money went on paying back my landlord. It took me six months to pay off my debts.
I have just moved into a new apartment (an empty shop front in an unfinished building), which is much better, has three rooms including space for a kitchen, and windows. The costs are still high and all the LCC assistance goes on paying rent, water and electricity.
My eldest son is 18 and left school a year ago to work and help contribute financially. He was very good at school so I cry when I think he hasn’t been able to continue his education.
He cleans wood for a local carpenter. His late father was also a carpenter. He was badly wounded by shrapnel in the attack that destroyed our home and killed his father. Even though he received medical treatment in Lebanon he still experiences numbness in the arm that was injured.
The rest are younger and still at school. They enjoy school but the loss of their father has had a big impact on their performance. My other children need extra help with English class, which they didn’t learn at school in Syria. All I want is for my children to receive an education. That’s the most important thing.
The extra money has improved my relationship with my children a lot. I was always stressed, always angry, especially when they were always asking if I could buy them things. I still can’t cover all their expenses, but I can occasionally give them 250 Lebanese pounds (40 cents) so they can have a treat. My youngest son Amin likes ketchup flavoured potato chips. My daughter Hiba likes cookies.
I was really stressed by my situation and I used to always cry. I am less worried now I know I can pay the rent. If the cash distributions stopped it would be a disaster for my family. I only have God and this assistance. Without it I would have to send my children out to work, or I would have to work, which would only make me so ill I could die.
Paul Donohoe - Senior Media Officer- IRC