The Syria crisis remains a major area of concern for us. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid [UNOCHA] recently sounded the alarm that the number of people in need inside Syria is 9.3 million [i.e. around 40% of the population], an increase of 230% in just one year. The number of internally displaced Syrians is estimated at 6.5 million, i.e. an increase of 540%. The number of Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR [as at March 10th, 2014] is 2,439,615 out of which 962,385 are in Lebanon.
These families are going through a dark tunnel and need to feel that they're not on their own. Samir* used to live with his wife and four children in their home in Aleppo where the children went regularly to school, and he earned his income through a juice shop which he owned. In April 2012 conflict started in their area and they had to flee, without taking any spare clothes with them, to a nearby town where they stayed in a school building that had become a shelter for the displaced. As the situation deteriorated, and having learnt that his shop was destroyed and burnt down, and with it any hope of regaining their source of income, they left to another district in Syria in search of work and some sort of stability for the children. They arrived at a displacement center where they stayed with Samir's siblings and their families and parents - a total of 36 people in a classroom. They stayed there all summer and moved again as winter set in to another city where LSESD's partner chuch is working with internally displaced families. Samir is one of 3,700 families (22,200 individuals) that LSESD, through local partner churches in Syria, is providing with monthly food aid.
Abeer* a 21 years old woman left Syria for Lebanon where she's been living in the Bekaa for eight months. When she and her husband first came to Lebanon with their now 2-year-old daughter, she lived with her mother-in-law until other refugees led them to this neighborhood. The area, which is now completely occupied by refugee families, consists of a partially constructed and abandoned three story building, a number of other one or two room shelters, and a few tents. Abeer, who is now 9 months pregnant, occupies one of these tents with her husband and child. They didn’t build the tent, which has a large UNHCR logo on one of the inside flaps, but pay $65/month rent for it, including electricity. Abeer’s husband was a farmer and house painter in their hometown, Homs, and now takes whatever odd jobs he can find. The food that they receive monthly from the church in Zahle is the only food they have. When the family hosts other refugees recently arrived from Syria, it is not enough. Abeer makes it a point to communicate that they used to live differently from this, but that they were forced to leave because of the situation. When asked if she could elaborate, she simply responds that they were threatened in Homs. “I hope the war will stop” she says. “We have suffered enough.”
Bushra* and her husband Ali left Damascus at the beginning of 2013 because of the war. They came to the Bekaa specifically because Ali’s father used to work as a caretaker at the local university before he passed away seven years ago. The one-room house where the family has been living for four months is shared by ten family members: Bushra’s mother, father and brother, Bushra, Ali, and their five young daughters.
Bushra has three brothers. The brother who came to Lebanon with them is deaf from birth. The two others are still in Syria. The family hopes that the oldest will come join the family soon, but they do not know when and if they will see the youngest brother, Ahmed. Ahmed was hit in the head by shrapnel from a shell after his parents and sister had left for Lebanon. His injury required 19 stitches and he is currently in a coma at a hospital in Damascus.
Ali has found no steady work since coming to Lebanon. At one point he was working consistently at a construction site, but when his employer went on vacation he was left without a job. Even on days when he works all day, he earns only $20. Since the family is receiving food from the church, their biggest problem by far is the $200 rent they pay for the house. When Ali works they can manage until the end of the month. But in months with no work, with no one to borrow money from and no consistent income, they are barely able to keep a roof over their heads.
The families of Abeer and Bushra are amongst 2,600 families that LSESD is serving through 8 churches and one Christian NGO in Lebanon. When asked how they found the church that has been providing them with monthly food aid, Bushra paused in her response before Ali said, “I don’t usually interrupt my wife. But I would like to answer this question. God led us to the church.”
Our LSESD relief work is expanding to include development components such as education and vocational training. Please do keep in your prayers the Syrian families that are affected by the Syria crisis. Do pray as well for LSESD and our partner churches as we continue to seek effective means and ways of alleviating their suffering.
Contact us for information on how you can partner with us in addressing the urgent needs of thousands of vulnerable Syrian families internally displaced in Syria, and refugees in Lebanon.
*Names have been changed for the protection of the refugees*