In the Middle of Nowhere

In the Middle of Nowhere

Publication info

Mahmoud Shabeeb

Many Syrian refugees who were displaced to Lebanon fear the approaching winter, as they are living in unfinished buildings or awfully inadequate housing. Nadia is a Syrian mother of eight who fled Aleppo one year ago to Sibline in Mount Lebanon, where temperature in winter drops below zero degrees Celsius and snow storms are common. Nadia’s husband used to be a teacher. Now he struggles to get work for one day on a construction site, another day as a gardener, a third as mechanic, and most of the time he cannot find any work at all. “I am happy whenever my husband is working,” says Nadia. “Not only because he can provide for us, but because otherwise he lets his frustration out on us when he does not find work.”

Nadia’s father had a farm where she used to work to support her family. “When fighting reached our village, we stayed in a tent in the open for forty days waiting for conditions to calm down so that we could return home,” says Nadia. “We had no stocks of food and no water. My nine-year-old son used to go every other day to the neighboring village to buy us small amounts of food. When the entire village was destroyed we had to come to Lebanon. We stayed for 25 days in an unfinished building.” The same boy, ten years now, together with his younger brother of nine years work for at least ten hours a day to provide for the family. “My son suffers from a medical problem ever since he was a baby, but he has to work,” says Nadia. “He complains about soreness in his hand from time to time. The only way I can ease his pain is with words and ointments.”

Now in Lebanon, Nadia and her family share a small two room house which is not big enough for the whole family. “I bought a tent for 100 US Dollars,” says Nadia. “I also pay 100 US Dollars every month for the two wrecked rooms, and an extra 35 US Dollars for water and electricity.”

The tent Nadia bought is made of very thin material that could not withstand the heat and will not be able to withstand the cold winter. The two rented rooms are also in bad condition. “Last winter whenever it rained water used to leak inside the house from walls and windows,” says Nadia. “The house is not good enough to live in, and with winter approaching I am worried for my family’s health. I hope we can move to another house before this winter starts.”

“I heard about CARE by coincidence from Syrian neighbors,” says Nadia. “Four months ago I was recommended to register with CARE. Soon afterwards, CARE gave me an ATM card to access an emergency cash grant. It was perfect timing, as the landlord had given us two days to pay our rent or else she would have kicked us out.”

Nadia’s difficult life conditions are not her biggest agony. Her daughter is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “My daughter became distressed because of everything we saw back home and our current tough life conditions,” says Nadia. “She sometimes starts crying and yelling and sometimes she suddenly collapses. She fears going alone to the bathroom. We took her to psychiatrists who diagnosed her with a severe nervous shock and said that she would need a year and a half at least to recover. I do not worry about anything but her. I wish for nothing but to see her fully recovered.”

Other than CARE’s emergency cash assistance, the family only receives UN food vouchers. “The only two agencies that helped us were CARE and the UN,” says Nadia. “The money CARE gave us helped us get through some difficulties. Hopefully we will soon return home and things become better than they were.”


CARE in Lebanon helped Nadia's family with emergency cash assistance which she used to pay for rent and buy food for her children. © Photo: Racha El Daoi/CARE