Helping Palestinian families through Lebanon’s harsh winter

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

Ahmad* is a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher and a father of seven children, including a son with a disability. He was born in Safsaf village in Palestine, but during the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’ in Arabic, in 1948 he fled with his family to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where he continues to live today. Ahmad taught English to primary school children for 25 years. He is well-known and respected in his community as most of the men and women were his students. After his retirement, Ahmad invested his savings in a business. Unfortunately, the business was not successful, and he lost much of his money. At 62 years old, Ahmad found himself forced to search for any work to secure the basic necessities for his family.

Today, Ahmad continues to work as a private tutor whenever possible. He gives educational support sessions to a few students in the afternoon for very little pay:

“Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib said: ‘I tasted all that was bitter, but nothing was more bitter than being in need of people. And I carried iron and rocks, but nothing was heavier than debt.’ I continue to work at this age so that I would not have to beg or ask people for money. I walk long distances to reach students’ houses to give them tutoring sessions,” Ahmad explained.

Palestinian refugees are among the poorest communities in the country, with more than two thirds living below poverty line. In the winter, families who live in very high altitudes in Lebanon are exposed to extremely cold weather. The severe economic crises that the country is experiencing has left many Palestinian refugees exposed and unable to secure essential winter supplies like fuel and food this year. This includes Ahmad’s family, as he explained:

“Nowadays, everything has become very expensive; the prices have increased rapidly, and there are no work opportunities to help us make ends meet. Unemployment rates are very high in the Bekaa area. Whatever money you make will still not allow you to afford your everyday needs. For example, I am now tutoring a girl and getting paid 7,000 LBP per session (and often per day) which is less than one US dollar [at the current unofficial exchange rate]. There’s nothing I can buy with this amount, but I tell myself that a little money is better than no money at all.”

To prevent the worst suffering and help the most vulnerable families through the harsh winter, MAP, with the support of Penny Appeal and in collaboration with our local partner Association Najdeh, have provided winter support kits to 840 families living in Palestinian refugee camps and gatherings in the Bekaa Valley. The kits include a nutritious food parcel, warm winter blankets, and fuel for heating and cooking. Ahmad told us what this support has meant to him:

“The project has provided us with the most essential needs to survive. If it weren’t for the food supplies, blankets, and fuel for heating, we wouldn’t be able to survive this freezing cold. I and the majority of people here  are not able to afford any of these. Prices have become too high for us. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been able to keep my family safe and warm on my own. The quality of food supplies and the blankets is excellent! I really appreciate what this project has done for us.

“The Quran says, ‘Whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it.’ Can you imagine what that means for the great deal of good that you have done? Thank you!”

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

* Name changed to protect identity

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