Life inside the Palestinian Camps in Lebanon: A Cliffhanger

The largest part of residents in the Wavel camp in Baalbek rely on their work in construction, agriculture, or transportation; a daily or monthly gig that was among the first jobs that were affected by the economic crisis in Lebanon. What was available yesterday, even with minimal food, medicine, and heating, has become impossible for hundreds of families who have no breadwinner or helper.

“Detrimental is one way to put it. One day we eat and the other we chose to stay warm, we can’t afford both. We are 8 people living in a 12-meter squared space, and my 23-year-old son is the only breadwinner for us, and soon enough the only thing he will be able to win from his $50 dollar salary is the bread and some legumes only!! We are abstaining from meats and fruits to keep warm and sometimes we abstain from warmth altogether because of the fuel prices. It has always been challenging being a refugee unable to benefit from what URWA provides (because by the UN we are not declared as refugees), but in these times being a refugee is life-threatening”.  Hadia a benefiter from the heating voucher says.  "The voucher that Taawon gave us will help us get heat for about two weeks if we really use it diligently. Nevertheless, we feel deeply grateful that there are those who think of us and work to support us."


Several dark narrow alleys ahead, we met up with Hind who was waiting for her children to come back from school.

She welcomed us to her humble house with a big and bright smile, though her eyes gave her away with the depth of sadness they carry. “The cold is my family’s adversary. On top of struggling with daily essentials like groceries and meat, there is the crippling low temperature. It literally cripples me because I have rheumatism and I need proper warmth, but that is limited to once a day! Even in the coldest of storms. I can’t explain the pain and frostbite I constantly feel, imagine my poor children.” Hind lives in a rented cozy home with her husband and children. We learned that her husband is currently unemployed due to the crisis in Lebanon and his job in construction is not exactly needed in this economy. It becomes evident why they compromise on heat and food. Rent is due every month but the cold is here for only a few months, so they compromise.

The series of misfortunes continue with one of her kids being epileptic like her husband and unable to afford a visit to the doctor’s and obviously medication is out of the question.

“My daughter suffers from complications in her ear, and I should get her to the doctor every once in a while but” Hind brushes a tear off unable to continue the obvious.  

Fleeting moments of happiness and fulfillment appear on Hind’s face when she showed us her daughter’s drawings. In fact, both of them share an artistic side. Hind lets out her frustration by writing poetry about her hard life and her daughter's drawings. 

Hind speaks with desire about inscribing her daughter to an art institute but sorrow quickly takes over when she recalls that they can’t even afford a hearty meal. “I really just want to cook a good meal for my family” she hums. “I feel like a bad mother, and I genuinely can’t do anything to fix that but maybe this voucher will help.”  

You can’t always stick the landing

We then headed to Khaireya’s home, another beneficiary of the fuel vouchers. She met us halfway through the alleys after her shift at the hospital was over and let us into her home smiling eager to see her daughters after work.  “I work as a janitor for a living, but that would imply I make enough to maintain my 3 daughters and myself alive. Truth be told, I can barely afford rent and we depend on the goodness of people and organizations for warmth. And even then, I try to make the fuel prolong as much as I can because I am not able to buy it otherwise. My daughters and I tend to go to bed early because only then we are able to escape our miserable reality. More than often I send them to school without any food and we live of off Zaatar a lot. I try my best, I really do but times are harder than I can ever be on myself”. 

Khaireya smiles at her daughters sitting next to her in the only room in the house and says, "At night, when I sit down with my girls wrapped in many blankets, I find ourselves laughing and telling anecdotes that make us laugh. Just like sleep, a good laugh is a coping mechanism. It undoubtedly helps us to start a new day!

We hope that with the warmth taken care of,  these families can have a surplus of income to cook meals and go to doctor appointments.  This humanitarian aid was done with the support of the sister organization in UK where more than 480 families will benefit from the distribution of fuel vouchers worth $50 each.

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