In Bekaa valley, 11-year-old Taghrid lives with 16 other people in a cold, ramshackle, tent-like construction. Her family has been here for four months, after fleeing from Syria. Until they were forced to flee, Taghrid and her family lived in a three storey house. Right now, her home is built from thin wood, cardboard and plastic sheeting.
Taghrid’s grandmother, Imm Ayman, the matriarch of the family, speaks of the horror of their last weeks in Homs:
“We used to hear planes all the time and then the bombs got too close,” she says. “When it was only 100 metres from the house, the children were shocked and scared so we escaped to the mountain nearby. We were lucky to escape with our lives,” she adds. Just days later their home was razed to the ground.
“We were frightened, so how could we tell our children not to be frightened? Now even when a normal plane goes overhead they are afraid by the memories,” she adds.
Taghird’s tent is only about a 15-minute drive from the Syrian border. World Vision staff who are helping in this area tell us they often hear bombs in the distance.
Of the 12 children who live here, only two have been able to go to school. The rest, including Taghrid, spend their days on the basic plot of land that the family are renting.
Sometimes Taghrid tends to the patch of land where they’re trying to grow vegetables. At this time of year, however, only onions will grow. It seems unlikely that any nutritious food will come from the patch of soil anytime soon. Besides, within weeks it will be covered by snow.
Taghrid also passes her newly found free time by helping her mum to make soup in their small kitchen area. They have one tiny stove between 16 people. Soup is all they can afford to eat.
Despite the mop on one wall- the tent constantly leaks - it is impeccably clean and on the wall a cup rack has been fixed, holding essential cooking utensils for the family and a attempt at normality. Everything has its place, from cups to clothes, bedding and blankets, which is essential if 16 people are to live harmoniously in such a small area.
One thing that that is noticeably missing, given the number of children living here, are toys. They had to leave them behind. Taghrid and her cousin, for example, keep busy playing hide and seek beneath their then mattresses.
“We play with each other, but we don’t have any friends here,” says Taghrid. .
The family has been receiving food vouchers from World Vision which they say helped them “survive the first few weeks here”. They have also received blankets, stoves and fuel coupons to help them get through the winter, which is on its way.
In addition to the support from World Vision, Taghrid’s family has also been receiving help from their new Lebanese neighbours, who helped them build their hut, with the wood frame, tarpaulin and mats.
It’s by no means enough though. As we sit and talk to Taghrid, her wheelchair-bound grandfather sits nearby. His relatives bring him blankets to keep him warm, but they can’t afford the medicine he so badly needs.
Both Taghrid’s dad, Ayman, and her uncle are looking for work and sometimes they get lucky with temporary jobs working with steel or metal. Ayman says: “I have no idea what to do or where to go,” he says. With the local economy under pressure and the influx of people looking for jobs, there simply isn’t enough work for all those who need it.“I do not know what to do about my family's future,” says Imm, who sits with her head in her hands. "Will we ever go home?"
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Fear and uncertainty among Syrian refugee children in Lebanon is the focus of a new report “Robbed of Childhood, Running from War.”
18 December 2012