Abdul Motalleb, Amina, and their children once led a normal life in Syria, where they planned a future for their family. But like millions of people, they were forced to flee once the fighting reached their town, destroying their property and putting their lives at risk.
In 2013, Abdul Motalleb, Amina, and their three children, Riham, Lama, and Mohamad, fled to Lebanon and found refuge in the town of Dmit in Mount Lebanon’s Chouf area. Their youngest son, Ahmad, was born in Lebanon. They live in a humble two-room house, but have a modest garden space where the children can play.
Amina and her husband enrolled their children in school shortly after arriving in Lebanon. They were adamant about ensuring access to education to help their children acquire the skills and tools needed to lead a better life.
“I am determined to keep my children in school. Nothing but an education can ensure they have a better future”, she explained.
However, as Lebanon started to grapple with an unprecedented socio-economic, political, and public health crisis, the lives of many Lebanese and refugee families changed. Abdul Motalleb and Amina are no exception. With the sharp depreciation of the local currency, price spikes, and high food inflation, the situation of Syrian refugees continues to worsen. Nine out of ten refugee households live in extreme poverty and can no longer afford essential goods and services that ensure basic living standards, despite increasing support.
Much like the majority of Syrian families, Abdul Motalleb and Amina had to resort to coping strategies to survive, such as borrowing money, reducing health expenses, and taking on poorly paid jobs and extra shifts. The family also had to switch to wood stoves for heating because they could no longer afford fuel. Furthermore, and as a result of the currency devaluation, the family’s landlord increased rent, which highly impacted their spending ability.
“We only buy the necessary food items with a long shelf-life and we limit power consumption to lower utility bills,” Abdul Motalleb explains.
In this context, UNHCR’s multi-purpose cash assistance programme is a lifeline for refugees in Lebanon, helping families meet their basic needs such as rent, food, and medicine and enabling them to contribute to the local economy by purchasing directly from local markets and shops. The monthly cash assistance also provides refugees with the dignity of choice in meeting their needs.
“Without the assistance, we wouldn’t be able to pay rent, and we’d have to move from one place to another,” Abdul Motalleb said.
Despite their dire situation, one aspect the family was unwilling to compromise on was their children’s access to education. After a year and a half of not attending school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lama, Mohamad, and Ahmad returned to school in the fall of 2021, enrolling in an affordable school due to the family’s limited income. Riham, who is now 14 years old, also plans on returning to school soon.
Their children dream of having a better future, mindful that an education is key to reach their goals. Lama enjoys school the most. She loves mathematics and would like to become a math teacher herself.
Abdul Motalleb is a daily wage worker whose life expertise spans construction to agricultural work and even baking. He takes every job he can find. Amina works as a housekeeper in neighboring houses and in her children’s school to support the family’s limited income.
The generous support of the Qatar Fund for Development to the cash assistance programme enables UNHCR to assist more than 17,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This strong commitment to helping refugees and the vital support at a time of ever-growing needs means that thousands of refugee families, like Abdul Motalleb and Amina’s, can provide safe shelter and food for their children and can continue to send them to school.
“If it weren’t for the cash assistance we receive, our children would have to drop out of school, jeopardizing their futures,” Abdul Motalleb noted.