Appeal update - news straight from shelter project in Lebanon

STOP PRESS: Just in from Sophia, Partnerships and Programmes manager for Lebanon, who has just visited our refugee home improvement programme.

I travelled to the southern city of Tyre with our partner Habitat for Humanity Lebanon, to visit the shelter project for Palestinian Syrian refugees that we just started supporting, with the generous help of Embrace supporters.

I managed to squeeze in home visits to eight families, living in three of the Palestinian refugee camps in and around Tyre.

I ended my day – perhaps predictably – with conflicting emotions.

On the one hand, the stories I hear are depressingly similar. Families fled here from Syria, some five or six years ago, others more recently. The little assistance they do (or did) receive is depleting and most have only the UNRWA (the UN agency set up to help Palestinians) to turn to. Typically, the UNRWA provides 40,000 Lebanese pounds per person per month – around twenty pounds. They may also contribute towards rent. Few can find jobs, but not for lack of qualifications or the desire to work, jobs simply don’t exist.

People are desperate, and they have nowhere to turn.

Dark, damp and dangerous bedroom in a Palestinian, Syrian refugee's house nr Tyre, Southern Lebanon.

The improvements to the houses our partners are making may not seem much – a new secure door, tiles to replace a concrete floor, glass in the windows, plaster to line a leaking ceiling or walls – but the need is real  profound difference to the quality of life for those inside.

‘Pieces kept falling from the bathroom ceiling before, and we were afraid to shower, particularly the children. We thought the roof would fall in.’

And the difference is profound

‘There was no door before, so people could enter – and the rats and insects came in too. We feel safer now. The contractors did a really good job.

One home that I visited was that of a family of five. The father was injured during the violence in Syria and now has difficulty walking. He also has severe epilepsy and has seizures several times a day. Our partners have helped the family by providing a western style toilet, and a bathroom that is accessible for the father to wash in. They repaired the broken windows and provided new doors, to give some security.  Fixing a broken water pipe on the ceiling means that the family now has a reliable water supply – and no damp.

Our partners have difficult choices to make though, because the needs are far greater than the resources to meet them. The decisions come down to what is feasible to do and how many families are we able to assist. There is always more to be done.

At the end of my visited, I went to the homes of two single young mothers, who are yet to receive help. One young mother lives with her five year old son and four year old daughter in an apartment with no windows, no bathroom, no kitchen and no water or electricity. Her husband is an alcoholic and comes and goes. She relies on her mother-in-law to provide meals for her children. I wonder how they survive.

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