Syrian refugees redeem their food voucher at a participating store in Arsal in Bekaa Valley. Copyright: WFP/Abeer Etefa
Life has not always been harsh for Amer* (not his real name). Back in the Syrian town of Idleb, he had his own business as a clothing retailer and business was good. He never thought he would become a refugee let alone live on humanitarian assistance.
Bekaa Valley, LEBANON -- Amer, like thousands of other Syrian refugees who fled to neighbouring Lebanon, receive WFP monthly food assistance. But what WFP gives Amer and others like him, is more than food.
“If it weren’t for this assistance, we could be begging on the streets. This assistance is more than food, it gives us dignity,” says Amer. “I used to run my own store, now I am a daily wager, I have money on the days I work and at other times I’m broke. At the end of the day though, I know that I can put food on the table for my kids.”
Now, like in Bekaa and Akkar, refugees in Tripoli are receiving food vouchers instead of food packages assistance. Through the voucher system WFP gives refugees the freedom to buy in local shops the food of their choice while at the same time boosting the local economy.
“In Tripoli, they used to make effort to come to the distribution site to pick up their food packages and wait under the sun heat for long hours and pay for transportation,” says David Baduel, WFP head of Sub-Office in Qubayat, Northern Lebanon. “This is only an indication of how much they need our assistance.”
A food assessment conducted in April showed that food was a priority need among Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“I used to get packages before and had to wait for hours in queues,” commented a Syrian refugee woman who lives with in Baalbeck, Bekaa valley. “Now I go to the shop whenever I want and this makes me feel normal and less of a refugee.”
The majority of Syrian families in Lebanon are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance. Feeling “normal” is what they miss the most.
“Syrians are used to receiving refugees from other countries themselves, they never imagined they will one day themselves be on the other side of the crisis,” said Josef Lozej Area Coordinator for Tripoli in the Danish refugee Council – a WFP implementing partner. “Many did not see it coming.”
More than 46,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon. In recent weeks, the numbers have been growing by the day. In August, North Lebanon saw a 30 percent increase in the number of registered beneficiaries.
“In Tripoli alone, more than 100 people are being registered on a daily basis,” explains Lozej. “We need to be ready for a major influx. We need a system to be able to absorb the needs early on, as we are steadily going towards this direction.”
*Name has been changed to protect the beneficiary’s identity.