She Was Still Playing with Dolls

She Was Still Playing with Dolls When She Married

Publication info

Johanna Mitscherlich

Seven months ago 8-year-old Aamina had to flee from her home in 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.”  Aamina’s new home is in Sabra, one of the most impoverished and highly populated parts of Beirut. Sabra was 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 here. They cannot afford to live anywhere else.

More than 1 in 4 people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee.  That makes it increasingly hard for families to find work, including the Aamina’s uncles and father.  And they have almost no assets to rely on.  The family’s house, their business, their entire life was destroyed. Unfortunately, they are not receiving a lot of international assistance and have not registered with the United Nations. “We are afraid that these lists will be send back to Syria and that we can never return.” The choices they are forced to make are difficult ones, including simply meeting their basic needs. “We have to decide every day which meal we want to have. We cannot afford more than one.”

Life in Refuge - Syria Crisis

At night, Aamina’s father and uncle carry mattresses to a little shop around the corner where they can sleep once it closes. At night, Aamina shares a tiny room with her grandmother, mother and three siblings. Her grandmother, 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.” 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.”

At night, it gets so cold 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.  Of course, they need much more to get by especially if Aamina hopes to reach her 15th birthday without being wed to a man she hardly knows.