The more than one million Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon are struggling to make ends meet. Our Communication Officer in Lebanon, Pauline Grégoire, met Fadia, who benefits from a cash assistance, without which she would be unable to put food on the table.
Along with Abdul Haseeb Ayoubi, team leader for the basic Assistance program, I met Fadia during the summer, in the district of Minieh, in north Lebanon. She has been in Lebanon for two years. When she and her husband first arrived with their four young children and extended family, they lived in an informal settlement. Now, she lives in a collective shelter located atop a hill, in an unfinished building a few kilometers away from a small village. To access the building, the residents must climb up terraces; the path is steep and difficult, absolutely unsecured, winding through rocks, trees and wild grass. The road that passes in front of the door on the other side of the building is closed to the refugees because the landlord won’t allow them to use the main entrance. Despite the summer heat and difficult grade, women (some pregnant), men and children have to go up and down via the hillside terraces to reach the road. A bit winded after climbing the terrace, I sit with Fadia and her children, and Hind, another woman living in the building who is 6 months pregnant. The room is empty except for a few mattresses laid on the floor serving as only furniture.
Fadia explains that she also has her young cousin to look after: “Ahmad is eight years old. He lost his parents and family when his house was bombed. During the bombing, he also lost the use of his legs due to a head injury that caused brain damage.” While we speak, Ahmad rests on a nearby mattress, hidden under some blankets. He does not have a wheelchair, so Fadia must carry him. Fadia is doing her best to look after her family; she currently finds herself alone as her husband is under arrest pending the resolution of a visa issue.
Covering essential needs
Fadia has been benefitting from cash assistance for several months. When she began receiving the allowance ($175 USD per month), she managed to move out of the informal settlement and find a collective shelter that she shares with four other families (around 30 people in total).
She uses the cash assistance provided by the Lebanon Cash Consortium (LCC, see box below) to cover most of the expenses related to her children’s needs: food, diapers, medication, clothing and food. She has accrued some debt due to the rent, but according to her it’s manageable.
“Life is still very difficult but I’m feeling more independent with the assistance. I know who to talk to if I have an issue, I know how much I receive and when the card is loaded” she says with a smile.
But the most important thing for Fadia is that the assistance makes it possible to provide dinner every night for her children. “Before receiving the help, they would go to bed without eating. It’s not good for their growth, but I couldn’t do otherwise. Now I can feed them every night before putting them to bed. My children are not hungry anymore.”
The Lebanon Cash Consortium (LCC), created in 2014 and the first of its kind in Lebanon, is a group of 6 NGOs (SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, ACTED, CARE, Save the Children, World Vision and International Rescue Committee) working together to provide vital help to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees while preserving their dignity, with the support of DFID-UK Department for International Development and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection Department (ECHO). Every month, families receive a 175$ financial aid by bank transfer. They can withdraw this amount with a credit card and use it to support their needs (buy food, pay rent…).