Syria Crisis: We are not alone

“So mummy are we beggars now?” is a question Sahra’s daughters asked her. It’s virtually the first thing she tells us when we visit her and other women refugees in Shabreeha, South Lebanon.

The women have been in Lebanon between four and ten months. Sahra (35), her husband and three children fled the conflict in Syria with little but the clothes they were wearing. The clothes have had a lot of wear. She says, “My children are ashamed when they go out.” Before leaving Syria the family moved from place to place, leaving their few possessions in different houses either because they could no longer carry them or the fighting was so fierce they didn’t have chance to
collect them. ‘”We moved to places I’d never even heard of! My family would ring me and ask ‘Where are you?’ and I’d say the name of the place and they’d say, ‘Where is that?’ but I didn’t know where it was even though I’m Syrian.”

Sadly, as Sahra says, the family is not alone. There are now over 480,000 refugees living in Lebanon.I asked Sahra what she said to her children when they asked her about being beggars: “I told them we are not alone. A lot of people are going through this. If we are going to live we have to accept help from these organisations. Your father can’t find a job and we need to live.” Adding sadly, “but they find it very hard.” Sahra’s eldest daughter, who is 16, trained to be a hairdresser and is looking for a job. Sahra told me
she has a lot of empathy with her father. He can’t find a job and has a bad back, a slipped disc. The work he can do is limited, so she wants to find work instead. She’s already written a list of what she is going to get each member of the family. She wants to buy new trousers for one of her sisters. For another sister she wants to buy new shoes, which she badly needs as her old ones are falling apart. She wants to buy me a new dress. She also said to me, “Mum make me a list of what you want from the Co-op (supermarket) and I’ll go and get everything as soon as I get a
job and get paid.”

Sadly, as Sahra says, the family is not alone. There are now over 480,000 refugees living in Lebanon. Whilst some are living in conventional apartments, many are unable to afford the rental prices, which have doubled or tripled in the last few months. Many refugees are now living in damp, dark garages, hastily constructed wooden shelters and poor tented settlements. Any money people were able to bring with them is rapidly spent. Sahra and the other women, report that food and other essential items are much more expensive in Lebanon than in Syria. Her daughter’s prospects of gaining
employment are poor, as local Lebanese and Syrian refugees compete for few jobs. The outlook is bleak. Sahra and the other women believe that despite longing to go home they will not be back in Syria for a long time.

Through Oxfam’s programme, which is supported with funds from the Government of the Netherlands, Sahra’s family received a winterisation kit (including a mattress, four pillows, and two blankets), vouchers for hygiene and food items.

At Oxfam, we’re calling on international donors to continue supporting the Syria humanitarian response by giving more funds. The UN-led Syria response programme is around 60 percent funded. We are aiming to reach 650,000 people by the end of 2013, but our work is less than 20% funded. If you can, please support out Syria Crisis Appeal

Jane’s blogs from Lebanon

Jane Beesley has been in Lebanon for the past few weeks, meeting families that have been forced to leave their homes because of the conflict in Syria. She has written two other blogs, both about a 12 year old girl called Reema, and her family:

Reema: A girl whose face you’ll never see

A small green book: Reema’s poetry

Author: Jane Beesley
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.