Syria crisis: I can’t help but wonder … How?!
By Rakan Diab, Save the Children, Lebanon
It was a beautiful sunny day, clear and warm, as I travelled to Tripoli accompanying the Save the Children team.
Along the road, I pointed out the different touristic sites that Lebanon is famous for: downtown, Jesus the King Statue, Lady of Harissa and others.
The journey into Tripoli was breathtaking: mountain chains escorted us and paved the way to the capital of the north.
Taking refuge in Lebanon
Our first stop was the Save the Children field office in Tripoli, where we were briefed about their recent projects and future endeavours.
Our colleague Hamza then led us to Beddawi camp to witness the sufferings of Palestinian and Syrian-Palestinian refugees, who were once refugees in Syria and then had to flee again, to Lebanon.
Slowly the beautiful city turned dull and its outskirts were marked by the presence of ghettos where poverty is not an expression but a fact.
The black paved roads became grey and pitted with trench-sized potholes.
As we entered the camp, the scene became increasingly dreadful: tangled electricity wires, pictures of former leaders’ martyrs, a grave site where tens of people lay buried, a different aspect of urban life.
A concrete canvas of chaotically built homes spread around, with the shadow of war still looming over these unsettled people.
Despite the paucity of their resources, and in spite of their startling poverty, they welcomed us with open arms, offering us coffee, juice and cake.
Abou Rami, a man in his late 60s, explained, “1,330 families have entered the camp, mostly Palestinian-Syrians.
“The living conditions are bad and we don’t have resources, but we consider them our brothers, and so we help them with what we can, offering our homes as shelters, sharing our clothes, food and our beds.”
We are grateful for what we get, but it’s not enough
When asked about the help they are getting from INGOs and NGOs, he said, “Little help is being offered to us; we are grateful for what we get, but it’s not enough”.
Walking through the narrow alleyways of the camp, the scene became gloomier, with armed men guarding buildings, children playing in hazardous environments, and the smell of untreated sewage polluting the air.
Then we entered a humble home where Ibtisam, a mother of four children, greeted us, saying, “I apologise for the lack of furniture but please sit on the mattresses…”
She apologised! ‘We should apologise to you, Ibstisam‘, I thought to myself.
I pray every day that my husband stays safe
She told us, “Four families are living here, a total of eight children. My husband is still in Syria, and we live here with my parents, one brother and two sisters.
“We are very grateful for Save the Children because they gave us blankets, clothing and shoes. But healthcare is still a big concern. My son had the flu and I couldn’t buy him any sort of medicine.
“My only hope for the future is to see my house in Syria not destroyed and I pray every day that my husband stays safe”.
I can’t help but wonder … How?
Leaving that house was difficult, but it was getting dark, and we had to head back to Beirut.
Hours passed by and Ibtisam was still in my thoughts as the sun went down. I wondered how four families could sleep in a house no bigger than my room.
The experience made me thankful for the things I take for granted: a warm bed, the countless sources of entertainment I have, even a couch to sit on writing this blog.
Ibtisam hasn’t got those things, yet, like her name, which means ‘smile’ in Arabic, she had a smile on her face. I can’t help but wonder … How?