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Lebanon: “Seven years have already passed since I left Aleppo…”

Published on Thursday 11 June 2020

More than a million of Syrian people fled from their country and took refuge in Lebanon since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. Today the number of refugees in Lebanon represents a quarter of the whole country. But these people struggle to settle on a long-term. Syrians largely live in informal camps, structures under building, or unsanitary flats charging extremely high rents. These housing conditions are unsuitable, and most of them are unprovided with access to water and sanitation.

Elham lives in the informal camp Maalaqa 034 on the outskirts of Zahle. It is one of the biggest camps in the Bekaa Valley; it is home to 120 families, so that’s more than 690 people who live in very precarious conditions.

Aged 30, she left Aleppo seven years ago:“First, I illegally lived in a tent in Zahle city-centre, but the town council requested that we left. My husband, my two children, and I met some friends in this informal camp. Since then I have had three other children; all are girls! Two of them used to go to school but to continue studying has become more and more difficult since the Lebanese crisis. My husband provided for our family being daily employed in quarried, but he has not been proposed any job for months.”

Each winter SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL distributes shelters’ construction kits and restores sanitations. Our teams provide drinking water and sanitation access all year long thanks to a permanent link they sustain with the community’s voluntary representative of each camp also called Shawish.

Hussein Al Afnan came to Lebanon nine years ago with his wife and his three children. Since then he has had three other children on the Lebanese territory. He was a taxi driver in Syria. Today he holds the role of Shawish in the camp Terbol 084, at the foot of the mountains at the Syrian frontier.

  • 5.5 million inhabitants
  • 28,6% poverty rate
  • 72nd out of 188 on the Human Development Index
  • 75,000 people helped

“I live in this shelter with my family. There are several rooms and we host especially hygiene sessions with the children’s committee. Outside we have a small plot of land, but the animals are not mine. They belong to the landowner. We are on the side of the mountain, and this pose many problems during wintertime because water runs in great quantity into our shelter.

I like working with SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL as they are available very quickly through the hotline or WhatsApp: we send photos of the urgent situations, and they come very soon to drain or supply us with water for example.”

portrait-hussein-al-afnan

SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL teams in Lebanon also set hygiene promotion committee -often handled by women- up, and organise hygiene sessions for children. Fatmé, 12 years old, takes part in these sessions with enthusiasm in the camp Terbol 084. She can’t go to school, so these playful and educational activities with the other children are a way to break free from her daily life.

Fatme's family portrait

“We moved to Terbol because my father found a job in fields. I studied in a Korean charity school before coming. When we arrived here my parents wanted to register me at a school again, but I have not been admitted at anyone because my parents couldn’t prove that I had ever officially been sent to school. I still have not gone back to school until now. I hope for becoming a doctor to help each and everyone.”

Fatmé’s mother mourns her daughter’s position: “I can’t either read or write. I am not self-reliant, and I always must ask for someone’s help; I can’t even read a text on my phone. I rely on the others. I’ve been deprived of the right to read, and I don’t want my daughter to be deprived of it too.”

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Translated by Françoise Devillers