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Lebanon: promoting solidarity and coexistence

By Mona Monzer and Rakan Diab, Save the Children in Lebanon

Syrian families escape from Syria on the back of a truck across the border into Lebanon

As thousands of Syrian refugees continue to pour over the border into Lebanon, the pressure on Lebanese communities is rising. One deputy mayor explained that there are more than 100 Syrian families in his small village, placing an obvious strain on the community.

Haj Ali arrived from Syria three months ago. “When the clashes became more violent, I took my family after midnight in my car, which I then just left in the street.  I don’t know what has happened to it now. We left everything there because I was worried about snipers. There was no time to pack.” Just a week ago, Haj Ali lost his brother in the fighting in Syria. Eight of his nephews and nieces have been killed as well. “One of my daughters is married and still in Homs. Thank God she is alive.”

Haj Ali now lives in this small village with his ten children. In Syria, he had a car, a house and a small business. “When I arrived here with my family, I relied on my brother, who has been working here for over a year. But I couldn’t do that for long.”

To assist families like Haj Ali’s, Save the Children has launched a scheme that pays people a wage to carry out community works. This provides job opportunities for the most vulnerable families, allows important works to be carried out and promoting cohesion between the new refugee families and the local community.

“Our collaboration with Save the Children started a few months ago, when they approached us wanting to provide cash for work activities in the area,” says the deputy mayor. “Our village was in need of a sewage canal.  We had started one two
years ago but had to stop because of lack of funding. Not having a proper sewage system was causing sickness among children living nearby.”

Save the Children agreed to cover the costs of daily workers, including both Syrian and Lebanese men from the area. There are now three groups of 25 workers building the sewage canal. Haj Ali, who supervises one of the groups, explains that the groups rotate every ten days so that they can learn different tasks.

“Thanks to Save the Children, 50 Syrian and Lebanese men were able to find work and contribute to the building and completion of the sewage pipeline. I think this is an achievement. People were very angry with the municipality when we stopped working on the canal; we have regained their trust now.” There is, the deputy mayor says, a lot of acceptance towards the Syrian families “because we know it could happen to us. Such projects promote the solidarity and coexistence among different communities,” he adds.

Despite the project, Haj Ali’s family continues to struggle. “I am getting a modest income through this project but this is not enough,” he says. “I want my children to pursue their studies. My eldest sons were close to graduating; I worry for their future.”

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