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Syrian refugee father and family face new struggle for survival

Abdelsalam and his family fled brutal fighting in his homeland of Syria and now call Lebanon home. ©UNHCR/Hannah Maule-ffinch

Abdelsalam and his family fled brutal fighting in his homeland of Syria and now call Lebanon home. ©UNHCR/Hannah Maule-ffinch

Abdelsalam and his family escaped brutal fighting in Syria — but the struggle for daily survival continues.

His eldest child, Abdul Rahman, was an infant when the family fled. He is father to three more children: four-year-old Fatimah, three-year-old Khlaled, and four-month-old baby, Hilal.

While they have found safety in Lebanon, daily life presents fresh challenges for the family. For more than a year, they have been residing in an unfinished building near Tripoli. Illness was a struggle during the winter, which mum Khitam attributed to the family’s poor living conditions.

Abdesalam has found work picking vegetables, but at most earns $6 per day — equivalent to the cost of a bottle of cough syrup.

“If one of my children gets sick, there’s not enough to pay the costs of health care,” he said, as he sat cradling his young daughter. “I don’t want my children, who are still very young, to feel like I can’t provide for them. Their well-being is my priority.”

With four little ones to feed, clothe, and shelter, the income barely makes a dent in the family’s essential expenses, which include around USD $156 a month for rent, electricity and water.

Abdesalam’s story is not an isolated case among refugees in Lebanon, where an estimated 58 per cent refugees are living in extreme poverty — below $3 per day.

At the end of 2017, Lebanon was hosting some 997,500 registered Syrian refugees, including more than 39,600 newborns registered with UNHCR last year.

To help vulnerable refugees prepare for the cold temperatures, UNHCR began providing winter cash assistance of between US$225-$375 last November to help with additional costs such as fuel, clothing and medical expenses.

For Abdesalam and his family, winter cash assistance offered sorely needed financial relief to pay for medicines and medical treatment. Khitam said that she thinks that without it they would not all be alive

Better still, removing the often heavy burden of steep health-care bills, this dedicated father can focus his energy on an equally important part of the parenting experience: helping to raise healthy, happy children.

To learn more about our life-saving cash assistance program, please visit www.unhcr.ca/cash