Mona had vowed to hang on to her house until she could not anymore. The bombs had reached her neighborhood in Homs, Syria and her fear for her children led her to seek refuge in Lebanon four years ago.
Living in an informal settlement in Marej, Bekaa Valley, Mona had joined her husband. “He used to work in Lebanon and was settled in this village as an agriculturist when the war broke in Syria,” says Mona. Little did she know that her suffering would not come to an end.
Mona and her family of nine live in a one-room tent.Tthey share the bathroom with 43 other families living in the same settlement where the kitchen is also a collective facility. “Here it is very crowded, and we sometimes struggle with hygiene issues and water shortage,” explains Mona. “We sleep, eat, sit, spend our day and host neighbors in this one room; at night we sleep on these mattresses and during the day they become our living room,” as Mona points to the warn-out mattress on the floor.
Mona had never imagined in her life that one day she and her family would be living in an “ad hoc” shelter, established on an agricultural land after owning her own house in Syria.
Six years on, Syria is besieged by an ongoing conflict, and the suffering of the Syrians inside and outside Syria is unthinkable. From missiles, to bombs, to meeting their basic needs, the Syrian community struggles to survive.
Out of Mona’s eight children, aged between two and 15 years old, only Hussein who is now nine years old goes to school in the neighboring village of Bar Elias. “The rest of the children spend their time playing in front of our tent. From dusk till dawn, they don’t go to school or take part in any recreational activities,” says Mona.
In 2014, Mona’s family started receiving a monthly 175 USD multi-purpose cash stipend delivered by the Lebanon Cash Consortium (LCC) in order for her to meet her family’s basic needs. “The first time I received the cash assistance, I bought some candies for the children. They haven’t had any candy or chocolate for almost a year and I had the freedom to treat them,” says Mona. “I also bought some much-needed clothes children as we fled with the bare minimum.”
Proven to be one of the most efficient, effective, flexible and dignifying ways to assist vulnerable households, multi-purpose cash assistance was adopted by the “Lebanon Cash Consortium” as a modality to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable Syrian families across Lebanon.
Like many refugees, Mona uses the cash assistance to pay the rent, electricity bills, groceries and medication for her children and husband. “Three months ago, my husband, who is relatively young, got a heart condition. Since then, we have spent some of the assistance on medication,” explains Mona, adding that “the flexibility of this assistance allowed me to support my family as I was able to choose what to spend the money on each month.”
For the past two years, with the support of both ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) and the UK Department for International Development, the Lebanon Cash Consortium has been delivering multi-purpose cash assistance to more than 18,500 vulnerable Syrian refugee households all over Lebanon.
“We don’t know what to do if the assistance stops, but what I know for sure is that this settlement will face hygiene problems. We rely on the assistance to buy soap, detergent and shampoo,” says Mona. “If we stop receiving the assistance, it is a catastrophe, but we can’t really do much.”
By Yara Chehayed, WVL Communications Officer