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“You only have widowed women living here… Now we are homeless” – The refugee ‘widows’ settlement pulling down their own homes to avoid demolition

Humanitarian organisations call for urgent assistance

Save the Chldren, 28th June 2019 



Lebanon- The ‘widows’ settlement in Arsal, a border town in eastern Lebanon, hosts 58 families, mostly made of single mothers, widowed women and orphans. In this settlement, there are around 160 people, including 90 children, who fled Syria and lost their husbands and fathers.

The families live in shelters made of concrete. In April, Syrian refugees in Arsal were told that any shelters made of concrete and built over five rows of brick must be demolished. The deadline is 1st July.

Overall, the rules will affect more than 2,500 shelters in Arsal, likely to be home to between 7,500 and 9,000 children.

To avoid having their homes demolished entirely by heavy machinery, many families are pulling down their own walls and ceilings. Photos and footage, including interviews, from the ‘widow’s settlement show mothers and children in the midst of the destruction of their homes.

Samah*, mother of three, says says children are not eating or sleeping properly, and that the crisis has hit people who have no one to help them.“We had to leave our country. We had to bury our dead children and husbands," she said.

“You only have widowed women living here. And maybe a few elderly men. Most of them are disabled. It was a shelter protecting us but now we are homeless.”

Sana*, 7 (left, above), says she was so sad when she knew that her room would be dismantled that she started crying. She doesn’t know where her mother, siblings and grandmother will end up.

Allison Zelkowitz, Save the Children’s Lebanon Country Director, said:

“Many Syrian families have taken matters into their own hands, and have started demolishing their homes in Arsal. Hundreds of children who saw their homes destroyed in Syria have to watch now while their second home is demolished. They have to relive the traumatic experience of sleeping outside or in crowded tents.

“Mothers are telling us how difficult it is to keep children clean and avoid diseases, without proper toilets and showers, while temperatures soar in the Bekaa. Many have to fill buckets several times a day to maintain minimum hygiene standards.

“Families have bundled the few belongings they have and kept them in piles next to their demolished homes, or stacked them at neighbours’ or relatives’ while they look for alternative accommodation. But what thousands of refugees fear most is the limbo they have been pushed into, with the lingering threat of future measures that would leave them unprotected and increasingly vulnerable.

“More than half of the refugees in Arsal still have not started demolishing their homes. Save the Children calls on the government of Lebanon to ensure that children and their families are protected first and foremost, and that all families are offered a dignified solution, and enough time and support to rebuild their lives and make their shelters and communities safe for children again.”


Notes to editors

  • Save the Children stands side by side with children in the toughest places to be a child. We do whatever it takes to make sure they survive, get protection when they’re in danger, and have the chance to learn. Together, we fight for children every single day. Because every child should be able to make their mark on their world, and help to build a better future.
  • Save the Children’s Syria appeal allows our teams to work round the clock in Syria and neighbouring countries to reach children whose lives have been devastated by the war.

*Names changed to protect identity

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