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Lebanon: being a refugee, a constant struggle

Published on Friday 1 March 2019

Since the beginning of the conflict, more than one million Syrians have fled their country and have sought refuge in Lebanon. The daily lives of these populations, who struggle to find stable housing, are a real battle against precariousness. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has accompanied Noura and Ola in their journey.

Running away by overcoming obstacles

Noura, 30, and Ola, 38, are both sisters-in-law and single mothers. In January 2013, because of the fighting, they and their families fled Homs (west of Syria) leaving their lives behind. During their journey, the two families reached a checkpoint where Noura’s husband was arrested and interrogated. Detained, he never returned. Noura had no choice but to continue her journey alone, accompanied by her sister-in-law and their children.

After a year of displacement and poverty, the two women decided to leave Syria. “Lebanon was our last resort,” told us Ola, “we knew that if we went there, it would be for a long time and that a return might be difficult”.

The burden of uprooting

They wanted to join their husbands’ brother and his family in the north of Lebanon, but due to costly administrative formalities, they were unable to cross the Lebanese border through an official entry point. “We didn’t expect life in Lebanon to be that much of a struggle. We escaped Syria in the hope of a more stable future but we slid further into desperation,” Noura explains.

Surviving in dignity

Since their arrival in Lebanon, Noura, Ola, their brother-in-law and their respective families, had been constantly looking for a place where they could feel at home. With limited means of subsistence, reduced humanitarian assistance, rising unaffordable rents and evictions, they had no choice but to continue to move. They have moved six times in four years. Ola even had to remove her 13-year-old son from school in order to support the family. “I feel guilty that my son is responsible for the family at such a young age,” she says, “ I’m afraid he’s going to blame me in the future”. Noura adds: “If we were educated we wouldn’t have reached this point. I can’t even help my children with their homework”.

Towards the end of 2018, Noura and Ola have found an unfinished shelter in Minieh, northern Lebanon. The house lacked doors, windows, a staircase and water and sanitation facilities. After some negotiations with the owner, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL rehabilitated the shelter. In exchange of the shelter improvements provided by the organization, the owner agreed to provide occupancy free of charge for a period of one year. “We are grateful for this accommodation, which we can now call home for a year,” says Noura, “Would this be a light at the end of the tunnel?

 

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Photo : Alessandro Penso/SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL

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