Estranged from Family and Homeland

Estranged from Family and Homeland

Publication info

Mahmoud Shabeeb

In the village of Mughayrieh in Mount Lebanon lives Muna, a mother of four boys who fled Syria seven months ago. “I have not heard from my husband in more than three years since we fled Syria,” says Muna. “He suddenly disappeared amidst the heavy bombings. It was very difficult for me to notice anything around me or to realize what happened to my house. I could only think about saving my children. We did not take anything with us. I always hear contradictory stories about my husband. Ten days ago I heard that he is dead, but two days ago someone told me that he is still alive. I do not know what to believe anymore.”

There are more than 1700 locations across Lebanon where Syrian refugees are dispersed. Muna lives inside a small room in an informal camp. In her house, there is nothing but a washing machine that Muna’s neighbor now shares with her and a few mattresses. “In the beginning I fled to Tripoli with my parents who then tried to force me to give my children to an orphanage,” says Muna. “I refused and ran away with my children and came here. My children and I spent the first night on the street. Now I live in this rented room and I worry about getting help to pay my rent from someone else every month. It is hard to hide from them, but my family still does not know where I am. How would they want me to give away my children? I cannot live without them!”

Ten days ago, Muna received CARE’s ATM card to enable her to access emergency cash assistance safely. CARE holds information sessions after every ATM distribution. Although Muna attended the information session, she needed further help that two of CARE’s volunteers provided straightaway. “It was difficult for me to use the ATM machine so CARE staff helped me withdraw the money and showed me how to do it.” Muna does not have any sources of income. Instead, three of her four boys have to work to make ends meet. Her eldest son is eleven years old. He works in a factory that produces shishas. Shisha is an Arabic water-pipe through which tobacco is smoked. Whereas her other two working sons, ten and eight years old, work in a garage. Muna’s children wish to go to school like other boys their age, but the circumstances forced them to work. “Every time they enter the house after sunset, tired and their clothes are dirty, my heart breaks because I feel helpless,” says Muna. “Even the money that they make per week can barely cover a meal or a pack of detergent.”

CARE’s emergency cash assistance helped Muna cover some of her family’s basic needs. “I used the assistance I received from CARE to buy cleaning materials, food and vegetables,” says Muna. “My sons ask me for clothes, they tell me that they want to go to school. A few days ago my 8-year-old son came holding 1000 Lebanese liras ($ 0.70 US) and said: ‘Our neighbor gave me this. Would not it be better if my father was here to give me money instead of having to rely on other people’s sympathy?’”

Muna has only one wish. It might seem very simple, but in fact it means a lot to her. “I feel tired and I just wish to rest,” says Muna. “I also wish that my husband returns, so that he can protect my boys and me. And I pray to God to forgive my parents for what they have done to me.”


Muna has four children between the age of five and eleven, three of them work to make ends meet. © CARE/Racha El Daoi