“The whole family can now eat and be happy”: MAP’s winter assistance to Palestinian refugees

Winter in the Bekaa Valley, which lies more than 1000m above sea level in the east of Lebanon, is extremely cold. The temperature drops below zero degrees and snow covers the area for months. In these conditions, Palestinian refugees – who are among the poorest people in the country, with 93% of living in poverty – struggle to meet their essential needs to survive.

Since the start of Lebanon’s economic crisis, which has seen a sharp devaluation of the local currency (by more than 90%), skyrocketing inflation, soaring unemployment and alarming food insecurity, the situation facing Palestinians in refugee camps and informal gatherings in the Bekaa Valley has worsened.

In response, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) – with the support of Penny Appeal and in collaboration with its local partner Najdeh Association – has been providing winter assistance to families most at risk. So far this winter, MAP has distributed winter kits to 665 families, which each include a nutritious food parcel and two warm blankets.

Ahmad*, 59, lives with his wife and four children in one of the informal Palestinian gatherings in the Bekaa Valley. They are one of the many Palestinian families who have been hit hard this winter and have relied on MAP’s support.

Ahmad has been living with diabetes for 23 years. He used to work as an electrician, and was very skilled, well-known, and trusted in in his community. Ahmad was supporting his family and their living conditions were relatively good. Ten years ago, complications related to his diabetes started to intensify: he lost his sight in one of his eyes and the other eye was affected too.

He also suffered episodes of irregular bleeding following some minor injuries he endured and was unable to continue his work, which was frustrating for him: “My work as an electrician requires me to have my full vision and to be physically fit. Continuing to work became too risky and my children were young and still needed me to be around,” he explained. At the time Ahmad had to stop working, his children were still at school, which meant that the family struggled to have enough money to get by.

In 2018, Ahmad suffered kidney problems and had to start hemodialysis sessions at least twice a week. Although UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) and another organisation help cover the cost of these sessions and Ahmad’s diabetes medicine, he still has to pay for the injections that he needs every two weeks which cost three million Lebanese pounds (LBP) (approximately £165).

“I need a constant supply of these injections and I can’t afford them. The breadwinner of this family is my eldest son who works for one million LBP per month (£55) which is not even enough to pay our rent. My younger son went to Beirut to look for a job, but he has not been able to find any work so far – which is a common problem for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who do not get fair employment opportunities,” said Ahmad.

“Sometimes I can get help to pay for these injections, but without that help I would not be able to buy them. There is another medicine that costs 350,000 LBP (£19.25) which I should take every day to prevent complications, but I take it every other day as I cannot afford it.”

In winter, the family’s struggles increase as they need a constant supply of fuel to keep their house warm. The cost of diesel oil, which is commonly used in the Bekaa Valley for heating homes, has significantly increased following the economic crisis. “The cost of fuel and electricity has become very high. We go to extreme measures to secure the very basic essentials to live and, many times, we have to borrow money. At night, the weather becomes freezing cold, so we sleep early so that we don’t have to use heating and to save fuel. When there is sun, we sit outside. We are doing our best to cope with these difficult conditions,” said Ahmad.

The assistance provided by MAP and Najdeh Assocation was much-needed by the family and came at the right time. “We have been prioritising other expenses over food. Nowadays, it is difficult to afford the smallest things. The food parcel is very helpful. Now we can cook nutritious foods throughout the whole of winter and we will have less concerns. The whole family can now eat and be happy. The blankets have been helping a lot in keeping us warm at night,” said Ahmad. Ahmad’s wife, Maha*, added that she is very happy with the food items included in the parcel and today she will be using the rice, lentils and vegetable oil for cooking.

Despite the difficult conditions facing Ahmad and his family, he is thankful to everything God has given him and his family. The family thanked MAP and Penny Appeal for their greatly needed assistance.

You can support other Palestinian families today by donating to MAP.


*Names have been changed to protect the identity of people involved.

Photo: Maha, one of the Palestinians MAP has supported with winter assistance, outside her home in the Bekaa Valley.

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