Syrian refugees: “One meal a day is all we can afford”

By: 
CARE
8-year-old Aamina

Sabra in Beirut, Lebanon, was originally built in 1949 as a refugee camp for Palestinians. Today it is home to a new wave of refugees: families fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Seven months ago, 8-year-old Aamina (pictured above) had to flee from her home town Aleppo to Lebanon. “We were the last ones to leave our neighbourhood. All the houses were bombed. The streets were full of rubble and dirt. It looked like a ghost town.”

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This is Aamina’s new home in Sabra, one of the most impoverished and highly populated parts of Beirut. Set up more than 60 years ago as a camp for Palestinian refugees, in the past months and years, more and more Syrian refugees like Aamina and her family have arrived. They cannot afford to live anywhere else.

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In this tiny room Aamina sleeps with her grandmother, her mother and her three siblings. Her oldest sister, who is 14 years old, just got married to a 25-year old. Her mother explains: “All of us can eat only one meal a day; we have nothing but this small room. I did not have enough money to take care all of my children. But she was just a child; she was still playing with dolls.”

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At night, Aamina’s father and her uncles carry these mattresses to a little shop around the corner where they can sleep once it closes. The men cannot find work.

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Huda had a stroke a few months ago. She cannot feel the left side of her body anymore. “I am old; I have had a good life. But I want my children to be able to go back home and live their lives. It breaks my heart to see how they have to suffer.”

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This is all the family could take with them from Syria. Their house, their business, their entire life was destroyed. “We have to decide every day which meal we want to have. We cannot afford more than one.” The family has not registered with the UN. “We are afraid that these lists will be sent back to Syria and that we can never return.”

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It gets so cold at night that they can see their breath. They don’t have electricity, a heater or a stove. The family received a water tank from CARE. “We always feel cold, there is no glass on our windows and the door does not lock properly. Now at least we have some warm water.” The family also received a hygiene-kit from CARE consisting of shampoo, toilet paper, soap and other important hygiene items.

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