Fadia’s four children, ages one to six years, are playing together happily on top of the stack of new mats. As she watches them, Fadia notes, “We would never have been able to buy these. Winter has been very cold this year, especially during the storm. We huddled together under covers all day to try to keep warm.”
Fadia and her family are refugees from Syria. Like so many of the more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, they fled their home when their difficult circumstances became unbearable. “We were always so worried, always packing to leave,” says Fadia about their experience in Syria.Their older daughter, who is unable to walk due to developmental challenges, was particularly terrified of the continuous violence around them.
Finally, the family was pushed to the limit when a shell landed on their kitchen and destroyed it while they were home. The family members were all in an adjacent room and nobody was injured, but for Fadia and her husband Wissam, this was the last straw. They packed as many of their belongings as they could and fled that night.
Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, where Fadia’s family is now residing, has the highest concentration of refugees in Lebanon. Competition for jobs and rental housing has become fierce, leaving many families living in substandard shelters including unfinished building and tents made from plastic sheeting. In the midst of this overcrowding and poverty, a harsh winter has set in causing devastation for those without adequate shelter.
When a fierce winter storm hit the country over five days in January, for example, there were several reports of refugees freezing to death and of children suffering from hypothermia.
Fadia’s family of six feel privileged to be living in their tiny one-room apartment.
“It’s just one small room,” says Fadia, “but it’s much better than our situation in Syria. At least here there is no shelling. It’s more secure, especially for the children.”
While grateful to have a roof over their heads, Fadia and Wissam struggle to meet their family’s needs. Wissam has found irregular work washing cars and earns about $275 per month. When the $200 rent is paid, this leaves the family only $75 to live on. They have found some assistance through the local church, but they are barely able to meet their basic needs, and buying much needed extra items such as blankets and mats in winter is completely impossible for them. “It is very hard for us to live,” explains Fadia.
World Renew in partnership with the LSESD has provided 2,700 blankets and 800 sleeping mats to refugees living in Lebanon including Fadia’s family. While this assistance will help families get through the winter, the conflict in Syria shows no sign of ending and additional assistance will continue to be needed.
by Heather McGuffin | Senior Program Officer | LSESD
This article was first published by World Renew on February 5, 2015.