Nadia, is a 55 year old who suffers from diabetes, she is a mother of 3 children and wife of a 65 year old cancer patient; Hanaan, is a 31 year old refugee with 3 young children, including an 8 month old infant; Salma, is a 55 year old single mother of 3 children; the list is endless. Nadia, Hanaan and Salma, and many others have quite few things in common: They have fled the violence in Syria with their family and have taken refuge in Lebanon. No money. No house. No access to health services. Living on sporadic charity if it is available… etc. They also have one more thing in common, along with hundreds of other refugees like them: They have been helped by HCI through its Syrian refugee assistance program in Lebanon.
Since 2011, the violence in Syria has forced thousands of people from their homes. As of mid July, the security situation worsened for the people of Syria and as a result thousands of people have been fleeing the conflict and heading to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. In August, the number of registered Syrian refugees increased to 180,000 in the countries surrounding Syria, including an estimated more then 60,000 refugee in Lebanon. This does not include the many tens of thousands who are not registered as refugees. It is worth noting that more than 90,000 are children and around 35,000 are children below the age of five.
They have been arriving in cars, trucks, buses, and on foot. The crisis is getting much bigger than anyone expected and the number of refugees continues to grow; the number of registered refugees in Lebanon almost doubled in early August. The majority, 55 percent, is in north Lebanon, with 42 percent in the Bekaa Valley, and the rest are residing in Mount Lebanon, Beirut and the south of the country.
Many Lebanese families that were poor to begin with are trying to host refugees; it is not uncommon to see a Lebanese family of eight that live in a two bedroom apartment squeeze themselves into one room so that a Syrian refugee family can stay in the other. Some of the refugees are staying in schools, some have put up tents, some are sharing derelict houses or small rental spaces with other stranded families previously unknown to them and others live in makeshift prefabricated housing in the grounds of collective shelters where the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure is non-existent or non-functional.
With no foreseeable near end to their unfortunate situation in sight, these families’ resources are fast dwindling. Rampant unemployment and sporadic insecurity around areas like Tripoli are compounding the already dire situation these refugees face. Additionally, high summer temperatures that can reach up to 45 degrees (in the Bekaa especially), a lack of proper shelter and ventilation are making already fragile individuals such as those with chronic illnesses and special needs requiring medication and care more vulnerable. The children of these refugees are also suffering; they continue to face the threat of under nutrition; limited access to basic services and psychosocial distress caused by experiencing violence and displacement.
These children also face an interruption of schooling; the new school year is around the corner, and even though the Lebanese government will probably allow Syrian children to go to government schools, most Syrian families will not be able to afford registration fees (tuition is free in public schools but there are various registration fees involved). Another added challenge is that the Lebanese school system is different from the Syrian one; the curriculum is different, and the language of instruction is in multiple languages, unlike the curriculum in Syria where everything is taught in Arabic, which will oblige these children refugees to take catch-up classes.
It is in this dismal setting that HCI mobilized itself to bring quick relief to the families most in need. At the offset we developed an in-depth family-level needs assessment platform especially for this campaign and its anticipated large-scale yet tailored intervention. Vulnerability criteria were developed for this purpose which include family income; productivity and employability of family members; vulnerability of family members; priority expenditure; health conditions/needs; schooling needs; access to relief support; availability of skills and assets; housing conditions; support groups; etc. This platform has been developed and tested by HCI tested in similar conditions especially in an urban refugee context in the Middle East.
Based on the needs assessments, an intervention plan was drafted taking in consideration the priority of needs, availability and feasibility of the support, and available funds to provide such support. Such approach is a tailored approach as opposed to a “one size fits all” approach. Our needs assessments outreach has encompassed over 6000 refugees nationwide, with single mother headed families, the elderly, people with special needs, infants and children being the priority recipients of HCI’s aid. The main bulk of our work so far has been in the North, the Bekaa valley and in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut, where more and more families are moving into, as living expenses are significantly more affordable there.
Our intervention has been centered around meeting immediate needs for newborn children, and dependent others such as providing formula and diapers, distributing life saving chronic disease medication, providing essential food and non food items such as hygiene kits, accessibility items, and bedding, encouraging environmental health, personal hygiene, and sanitary living conditions among others. In order to ensure that there is no overlap in services and to maximize the efficiency of our initiatives HCI is working in tandem with other local community-based groups and relief organizations. HCI’s intervention is not just relief or welfare; the medication, bedding, kitchenware and other relief items provided, contribute to a better lifestyle, better housing conditions and independent living as illustrated in the following cases:
In the case of Nadia, a 55 year old mother who suffers from diabetes, she is a mother of 3 children and wife of a 65 year old cancer patient. Nadia and her family live in a small unfurnished and unfinished utility room in a building in Abi Samra, Tripoli. The few belongings they now possess came to them through the kindness of strangers. But this help was sporadic. The living condition of this family required immediate improvement and on many different levels as indicated by the at home needs assessment. Thanks to the tailored design of HCI’s project, this family was able to receive exactly what they were lacking, HCI offered them cooking utensils, a food package and bedding materials, making their home more inhabitable and their lives more bearable.
Hanaan and her family live under extreme poverty. A small, vacant rental shop space is what they call home. For months she has been struggling to find work since they took refuge in Lebanon to support her three young children. In these unfortunate times the family has mainly been surviving on charity. The youngest daughter is 8 months old and is in need of formula, diapers and clothing. HCI’s intervention could not have come at a more opportune time; after needs assessments were implemented by HCI’s specially trained social workers, Hanaan’s family is receiving a baby care package and food that will contribute to a better and healthier standard of living for their infant.
Hundreds of similar cases have been supported through this program to this date, and hundreds will be helped in the coming days, but thousands are still on the waiting list pending the availability of funds. That is why we are making this special appeal for help.
(Note: real names were changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.)