Syria: “We had no choice but to escape”
“I traveled through seven villages before finally arriving in Lebanon, and doing so while pregnant made it a thousand times more difficult”, says Zahra, a 28-year-old mother of four. Zahra arrived a few months ago from Syria, and is now staying in a shelter in the north of the country.
More than two years after the conflict began, Zahra and her children are among more than 1.6 million people who have been forced to flee Syria, leaving their old lives behind.
Before the war, Zahra and her family lived a very decent life. “My house was beautiful and my husband made a good living,” she recalls. “But after the war started, my whole world changed”. Zahra and her family fled through half a dozen villages, before seeking refuge in neighboring Lebanon.
“We had no choice but to escape,” she says: “I feared for my husband’s life. It was either he dies from shelling, or he will be captured by armed men.” Like many others, Zahra had to pay a large amount of money to get into Lebanon, selling her jewellery for much less than it was worth to raise the necessary cash. “We had to leave in any means possible”.
Once she arrived in Lebanon, Zahra was able to visit a doctor regularly and attend sessions on motherhood, pregnancy and hygiene, organised by Save the Children.
“I was afraid of the anesthetic, but after Save the Children conducted the awareness sessions I began to understand its importance and I thank them for the advice they gave me,” Zahra recalls. “After I gave birth, I attended another session on breast-feeding, children’s nutrition, and what a baby should or shouldn’t eat depending on his age. I found it really useful”.
Save the Children continued to provide assistance to Zahra after she gave birth to Nader, through regular home visits, newborn and hygiene kits and awareness sessions.
Nader is now 10 weeks old. While she is glad to have escaped Syria, life in the shelter remains very difficult for Zahra. She worries about money, and addressing her family’s needs, and even more, she worries about her children, “especially when it comes to my little Nader’s health”. Lebanon is a more welcoming place for her and her family than Syria at present, but it is not home – and it is certainly not easy.
By Mona Monzer, Save the Children in Lebanon