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Syria: this whole war “is a war on children”

Father of three Ahmad grins at me from inside his tent. It’s a wide, toothy grin and I’m immediately charmed. We shake hands and he invites us inside, settling us down on the floor with a blanket before insisting we take coffee. It’s Ramadan, and I’m keenly aware that it must be hard for fasting Muslims to watch as others drink (those observing Ramadan don’t eat or drink anything all day, until sundown), but he insists and eventually simply brings out a pot of coffee and pours it for us. He sits down to explain why they eventually left Syria, after more than two years of conflict.

“We could not afford to survive”

“We were surviving only day to day, and if I missed even one day of working because of the fighting, I could not afford the food for my family. And that is what happened in the end, the fighting meant we could not work, and food was too expensive. We borrowed some money to pay for a little food, but that soon ran out. We could not afford to survive – there was no life for us left in Syria.”

Ahmad pauses for a moment, remembering Syria. We wait silently, sipping our hot, strong coffee.

He looks at his children and continues softly, “it is the worst feeling as a father, being unable to give your children food – worse even than the bullets and shells.”

Cash for Work – a lifeline for refugees

Now in Lebanon, it’s still a struggle, but things are a little better for Ahmad. He’s been working with Save the Children’s Cash for Work programme, which involved him cleaning up the camp. He was paid in cash (better than payment with food vouchers because it gives the family the option to buy exactly what they need). He used the cash for water and food for the whole family, and tells me it lasted a long time. His gratitude is evident, but I’m embarrassed to receive it – as a compromise I promise to pass on the thanks to the Save the Children Cash for Work team responsible for setting up the project.

We talk more generally about the situation in Syria, and what Ahmad thinks will happen next. Working in the field, you’re often told to avoid contentious topics like politics and religion.. But Ahmad isn’t interested in siding with the opposition or the government.

He shakes his head sadly at me and tell me that this whole war “is a war on children – food, water, shells – they all kill the children first”. He tells me that he just wants peace, so he can take his children home.

*all names have been changed to protect identities

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