The tragic situation in Syria has created a refugee and migration crisis that can be described as one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in recent history. For a whole generation of children, armed violence and conflict is the only life they know. Around 5.7 million people have left their homes and 6.2 million are internally displaced in their own country.
This also hit neighbouring countries, such as Lebanon, hard. Since the Syria crisis began, more than a million people have sought refuge in neighbouring Lebanon. Even almost eight years after the beginning of the conflict, they still urgently need support in their search for shelter, assistance and protection against violence. The German Red Cross provides humanitarian aid and enables cash assistance in Lebanon.
An interview with a Family receiving cash assistance in Lebanon
During our visit to Hermel, in northern Lebanon, we have the opportunity to talk to the Alaziz Albredi family from Hama. The family of six lives together in a small house and is part of the Red Cross Cash Assistance Programme. The whole family is severely affected by the effects of the crisis in Syria. Ali Alaziz Albredi describes how their situation has changed in recent years and what the Red Cross support means to him and his family:
Ali, you are part of the Red Cross Cash Transfer Programme – what can you buy with this money?
Our eldest daughter, Batoul, had only a thin sweater for the winter. With the first payment we bought her a thick jacket. You cannot imagine what it means for us as parents to finally be able to tell our child to wear her jacket before she goes out.
Then we paid our rent and the electricity bill. At that time we had not been able to pay our bills for more than a year. Therefore, once the needs of our children are covered, it is always the house that we take care of first, so that we continue to have a roof over our heads. The rent is extremely high here. Life in general is also very expensive. Food and household goods are almost unaffordable for us.
Since we have been supported by the Red Cross, we can decide for ourselves what we spend our money on. This is incredibly helpful to us. If one of our children suddenly gets sick, we can get medicine. If special things are needed in school, such as sports shoes, we can buy them for our children.
Is there any work for the refugees here?
It’s not easy. There are only occasional job opportunities, for example in agriculture. However, this depends very much on the season and the work is usually very poorly paid. Hardly enough to feed a big family.
In Syria, I was a self-employed tailor, regularly working in various factories. Because of the crisis, I was no longer able to find work at some point and we had to leave. We had a really great life until then. But you can see how things have developed.
Arriving in Lebanon, I immediately tried to find work. Unfortunately without success. Only when we moved to Hermel, in the north of Lebanon, I found a job in a supermarket. I worked there for some time until I was hired by a local tailor. I work every day from 9 am to 7 pm for LBP 15,000 (equivalent to USD 10).
What are the biggest challenges for you and your family?
The biggest challenge is providing food for our family every day so that our children don’t have to go to bed hungry. Sometimes, when we have nothing, my wife makes tea and puts a piece of bread in it, so that at least they have something in their stomach. Two of our children are malnourished. Since we have the cash assistance, we can at least make sure that we have one meal a day.
The extreme winter and summer months are also challenging. In winter it gets bitterly cold and the summer is very hot. We must be prepared for both, if we all want to stay healthy.
What are your hopes for the future?
For the future we hope that we can live again as a happy family. We want to do things with our children, build friendships and create a carefree existence. That’s not possible right now.
Just imagine your son is asking you for a banana. Actually not an impossible wish. In our situation, however, we have to think about what we can give up in order to buy him a banana.
You see, we need a little rest and peace of mind. It is very difficult when you have to fight for your existence for years. But above all, we must stay healthy for our children.
Photos: Oana Bara/German Red Cross