Lana, five-year-old Syrian refugee girl, living in Chhim town in Mount Lebanon area. Lana's family uses WFP e-cards to buy food at local stores. Copyright: WFP/Sandy Maroun
When 60-year-old Hafiza first arrived to Lebanon two years ago fleeing the daily shelling in Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus, she refused to depend on assistance. But, like tens of thousands of Syrian refugees across the regions, her saving ran out after only a few months and she registered for WFP’s e-card assistance.
MOUNT LEBANON - Old concrete stairs nestled between dilapidated walls lead to Hafiza’s house, in the narrow and dark alleys of Chhim town. Behind a red curtain separating the house from the neighbours to secure a little privacy, Hafiza’s granddaughter, five year-old Lana, sits down and plays.
“I wasn’t used to receiving assistance and couldn’t accept the idea; my pride stood in the way,” Hafiza says of her refusal to register for WFP food assistance. “But shortly after I arrived in Lebanon my savings ran out and I had to get my family registered for food assistance.”
In Lebanon, Hafiza lives in a rented house with her husband, three daughters and their grandchildren. Humidity invades the walls of the house. The smell of sewage is unmistakable and in winter the cold penetrates their bones.
All that remains of Hafiza’s life in Ghouta is a memory of her house. She recalls that shelling had intensified the day she and her family were forced out of the area. When the shelling stopped a few days later, she came back to find the house in ruins. She gathered what remained of her furniture and stored it in a warehouse. Soon after, she learnt through relatives that those items, the only belongings she had left, were stolen.
Yet Hafiza is grateful that she has a roof over her head and can feed her big family.
With over one million Syrian refugees now living in Lebanon, a growing number of them now reside in tents, garages, and unfinished buildings, but a majority, sixty percent, live in urban areas renting apartments that they can barely afford.
“We have food on the table every day. And thank God none of us goes hungry,” says Hafiza. She is among over 715,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who receive WFP monthly food assistance in the form of electronic cards (e-cards) worth US$30 for each family member. Syrians living in Lebanon can use these e-cards to buy the food of their choice, including fresh produce, at local shops.
“The e-cards are the most regular and consistent form of assistance that Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive,” says WFP spokesperson in Lebanon Laure Chadraoui.
“As more refugees continue to arrive and the vulnerability of others increases, WFP has scaled up by over 20-fold since the programme started in July 2012.”
Hafiza’s family depends entirely on WFP assistance to get their food needs. “As soon as our cards are loaded at the start of the month, I immediately go to the shop and get the food we need,” she says displaying the food items she recently purchased and that mainly consisted of vegetables, beans, rice, sugar and oil.
Despite losing her house, for Hafiza Syria is still home.
"Lebanon is a beautiful country but my dream is to go back home and have all my children gathered around me. I want nothing more of this life but to see Damascus again.”