As harsh weather hits, MAP distributes essential winter supplies in Lebanon

By Wafa Dakwar, Medical Aid for Palestinians' (MAP’s) Senior Programme Officer in Lebanon

In a small house down a hill in the Bekaa Valley live four sisters, the eldest of whom is Ahlam*. Where the sisters live in Lebanon is more than 1000m above sea level and extremely cold in the winter, with average temperatures of -1°C. Ahlam invited me in to her house to tell me how MAP’s provision of essential winter supplies has helped her and her sisters.

This house was once full of life and joy where a family of thirteen members lived. Ahlam has eight sisters and two brothers. Some of her family married and left, but Ahlam stayed with three sisters, Rola*, Rasha*, and Jihan*, and took care of their sick father and later on her mother. Rola had Polio when she was two years old and was left paralysed as a result. Despite her disability, her father’s illness, and the difficult financial conditions of the family, Rola was determined to continue her education, and she graduated from university with a degree in social sciences. She has been working for a local charity to support her sisters but for very little money, as is sadly the norm. Unemployment rates are very high in the Bekaa area and especially for Palestinian refugees who are not permitted to work in many professions in Lebanon.

COVID-19 lockdown measures and the economic crisis have made this situation much worse. Many families are no longer able to secure their most basic necessities, countless businesses have closed, and many have lost their jobs or are paid half or quarter of what they used to get. Rasha used to work whenever she managed to find an opportunity, but she had surgery last year and has been bedridden since. They hope she recovers and gets better with time.

To survive the current hardships, the sisters have resorted reducing their food intake and reducing expenditure on heating – enduring extreme cold weather as a result. “Rola is paid pennies, but we manage to use this money to secure food for many days,” Ahlam told me. “When we have money to buy food, we eat. Other days, we don’t. We don’t even mention it because we don’t want to put pressure on our sister Rola. In winter, we try to cover up using whatever blankets we have, and only when the cold becomes intolerable at night then we turn on the heater. Fuel is expensive, and we cannot afford it.” The sisters do not ask their family members for help because they are aware that others are also struggling to feed their children.

To help vulnerable families in Wavel refugee camp and the surrounding gatherings in the Bekaa Valley endure the harsh winter, MAP, with the support of Penny Appeal and in collaboration with our local partner Najdeh, are providing winter packages to 840 families. The packages included a nutritious food parcel, warm winter blankets, and fuel for heating and cooking.

According to Ahlam, the winter package came when they needed it the most and included all the essential items. “The weather is starting to get too cold and everything has become too expensive,” she told me. “The blankets are very nice and warm. I usually move a lot to stay warm so that I don’t consume the little fuel we have for heating. Now with the project’s support, our house will stay warm all winter.”

"The food products are excellent and just what we need. Today, I am preparing beans and tomorrow I will make falafel using the chickpeas from the kit. I am very happy.  Usually I keep on thinking about how and if I will find something to cook the next day. Now, I don’t have to worry about this issue any time soon. I will no longer feel embarrassed when my nephews and nieces come to visit because I don’t have any food to offer them,” Ahlam explained.

The sisters are thankful for all those who have made this support possible as it will help them to stay healthy and safe this winter.

You can support our work with Palestinian communities in Lebanon by donating today!

*Names changed to protect identity

Keep up to date

Sign up for our newsletter to receive all the latest updates from our programmes, campaigns and fundraising appeals.