Cash for Survival: Meeting the Needs of Syrian Refugees


In Lebanon and Jordan CARE has already lent its support in the form of cash assistance to more than 120,000 people who are in particularly vulnerable state of need.

For refugees who have lost everything it is a matter of maintaining dignity by choosing and prioritizing their specific needs themselves. It ensures that they do not fall deeper into poverty,” says Salam Kanaan, Country Director of CARE Jordan.

We asked refugees about their most urgent needs and what they will spend the cash assistance on once they receive it. 


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Hala* is three years old. Two months ago, she was playing outside in the garden of her family’s home in Daraa. She heard fireworks and was excited. Her mother told her to go inside the house. What she thought was a celebration was the sound of the war. Just when she got inside and went up to her room on the second floor, a bomb hit her home. When her mother finally found her daughter alive but severely injured under all the rubble, she carried her in her arms and fled with her and the other three children. It took them two days to find a hospital at the border to Jordan. “There were so many injured people. My daughter’s leg was shattered by splitters of the bomb, her skin was burnt. But she was still one of the best cases.” Hala’s father is still in Syria. They have not heard from him in almost two months. “I can feel that he is dead,” says Hala’s mother crying, but with some hope in her voice. With the cash assistance she received from CARE, she will pay for her daughter’s medical treatment. “I hope that she will be able to walk again in a few years and can play in a garden and listen to real fireworks.”


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Fatima’s grandson was hit by a bomb. “I did not recognize his body anymore, I could see his bones, and it was as if his flesh melted.” She fled with him so he could get medical treatment. His family is still in Syria. They have been in Irbid, in the North of Jordan, for the past few years. She spends whatever money she has on her grandson’s treatment. “I hardly eat; I want to save every penny so he can see the doctor. He loved reading and playing football. I hope that there will be a day when he is able to be happy again. If someone you love is hurt, you feel his pain as if it was your own.”


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Basilah is 62 years old. She had to leave her home in Idlib in the North-West of Syria. She and her husband used to harvest fields of wheat in the summer and pick almonds in the winter to make a living. Basilah has received cash assistance from CARE Lebanon. She will buy a heater and warm clothes for her children. “In the summer life was already hard. Now I wake up at night and check on my grandchildren every other hour. When they don’t move I panick because I think they might have frozen to death.” 


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Hanadi, unlike thousands of Syrians who have been wounded or permanently disabled during the war, has had leg problems since her childhood. She and her family left Syria in August 2012. Fleeing without being able to walk was very difficult, she says. She lives in a multi-story apartment building with her relatives. She has to crawl down and drag herself back up more than 60 steps every time she wants to leave the house. Her hands have suffered a lot from that. She cannot move them properly anymore. Her cash assistance from CARE will be used to pay for a surgical procedure. She hopes to be able to move to an apartment on a ground floor soon.


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Amal is 25 and from Damascus. One year ago she fled with her husband and her nine month old son. Her father is still in Syria. She lives in a small, two-room apartment with eleven others. She used to study law in Syria. Now she cooks at home and sells the food to make a living – but it’s not enough. Her mother and brother were both injured during the war and their treatment is very expensive. Right now, Amal’s major concern is keeping her family warm. With CARE’s cash assistance, she will buy fuel, blankets and a heater. She also needs milk and diapers for her baby. 


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Budur, 32, has five children. Her husband is still in Syria. Her oldest son Omar is twelve years old. He has to work so the family has enough to eat. Budur received cash assistance from CARE. “First of all, I will buy blankets and a heater so my children do not have to be cold all the time. Then I want to fix the wall of our small apartment. Water is dripping from it and there is mold everywhere. I want my children to stop coughing.” 


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Mahmoud is from Homs. In April 2013, his house in Homs was bombed. He, his wife and their six children were displaced within Syria for half a year before they finally fled to Jordan.  He worked as a store manager. One of Mahmoud’s sons has pituitary disease, which means that he is not growing properly. “He is twelve years old, but he looks as if he was five,” explains Mahmoud. He needs injections every six days so his condition does not get worse. But the family does not have the money to cover the costs. “It breaks my heart to see how my son has stopped growing and looks smaller and smaller for his age.” Mahmoud received cash assistance from CARE and will be able to cover his son’s medical treatment for the next three months.


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This woman shows her waiting number. She is number 34. Together she lives with her children and grandchildren in a tiny apartment outside Amman. They don’t have anything but a few mattresses and one heater, which their Jordanian neighbor gave to them. With the cash assistance she receives from CARE she will buy fuel, a carpet and blankets to stay warm. She says that for the first four months after they left Syria, she could not keep water down. Every time she tried to drink, she kept remembering how they had to walk through the desert for hours and what they had seen along their way. She could not digest the memories and so she did not digest the water. She participates in CARE’s psychosocial activities and hopes that her invisible wounds can heal.


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Badrina is from Daraa and came to Jordan seven months ago after her son was shot, her house destroyed and her husband went missing. A few weeks ago, she fell and lost eight of her teeth. With the cash assistance she receives from CARE, she will be able to cover her medical expenses.

*All names have been changed.

By Johanna Mitscherlich, February 2014

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