IMPACT

This Is What A Refugee Mom’s To-Do List Looks Like

Going to work means taking your four-year-old with you, because there's no school for him to go to.

For millions of Syrian refugees, what used to be simple tasks back home -- such as doing laundry or cooking dinner -- have become complicated, time-consuming burdens in refugee camps and informal settlements they now live in.

In Lebanon, for instance, there are more than 1 million Syrian refugees, and displaced families there are living in dire conditions.

Nearly 70 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the “extreme” poverty line, according to the UN, and over half of them reside in insecure dwellings, without adequate access to food, education or health care.

Nonprofit World Vision spoke with refugee mothers living in informal settlements in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, and uncovered the daily struggles they go through just to feed, bathe and clothe their children every day.

This is what a mom's to-do list looks like when she's a refugee:

World Vision shared the following stories with The Huffington Post. They have been edited for style, length and clarity. 

 

1. Go To Work -- But Bring Your Kids With You

Hamida brings her sons, Saad, age 4, and Jomaa, age 12, to work every day. They work alongside her, making and stacking bricks, earning 8 cents per brick.

In the settlement they live in, there is no school -- but even if there were one, they couldn't go, because the family can’t afford to miss out on their income.

Around one in ten Syrian refugee children across the region is engaged in child labor, according to the UN. In Lebanon, recent reports have found children working in “slave-like” conditions.

 

2. Take Kids To Doctor -- And Take Two Buses To Get There

Haisha with her mother-in-law Fatima, and two of her four children. Her son Jamal (in the blue striped sweater) has
Haisha with her mother-in-law Fatima, and two of her four children. Her son Jamal (in the blue striped sweater) has an injured foot.

Haisha regularly has to bring her son Jamal, age 3, to the physiotherapist due to a foot injury. Getting there is a harrowing task: She has to take two buses, and if she doesn’t have bus fare, she walks, carrying Jamal in her arms.

The doctor visits are helping, but they're tough for her to afford. She has to provide for her mother-in-law and four kids, as her husband is still missing in Syria.

Providing healthcare to displaced Syrians is a challenge due to the lack of aid funding, according to Reuters. Doctors in Lebanon have had to make tough choices, such as choosing whether to treat patients with acute cancer or mothers delivering babies, according to the UN.  

3. Do Laundry -- But First Build A Fire To Boil The Water

Woman preparing a pot of boiling water for laundry, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
Woman preparing a pot of boiling water for laundry, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

For families living in the Bekaa Valley, laundry is a complicated task, as they don’t have access to washers or dryers. First they have to build a fire, then they have to retrieve water from the common tank and boil it. Then they soak and scrub the clothes, finally hanging them out to dry.

If the sun is out, the clothes may dry in a day -- but if it’s raining or snowing, they have to be hung inside, and they can stay moist for a long time.

The 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon -- around one in five people in the country -- have put local infrastructure under stress when it comes to water and sanitation. A 2015 report from REACH and UNHCR found that refugees’ primary health concerns were linked to difficulties accessing safe water and sanitation.

 

4. Cook Dinner -- Even If All You Can Afford Are Potatoes

Woman cooking over an open fire, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
Woman cooking over an open fire, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

For many families in the Bekaa Valley, potatoes are all they can afford for dinner. It can take an entire afternoon to prepare a simple meal of boiled potatoes, as residents don’t have stoves in their homes. They have to peel the potatoes, cut them up, gather wood, and cook the potatoes over an open fire.

For some families, the process is slightly easier as they share a single burner with other families, taking turns to prepare their meals.

Refugees in Lebanon are facing a food crisis, according to the International Business Times. The situation has worsened since last year, and Syrians are finding it hard to meet their most basic nutritional needs, according to the UN.

 

5. Put Kids To Bed -- And Rock Them Through Their Nightmares

A child refugee lying on a makeshift bed in her home in the Bekaa Valley. 
A child refugee lying on a makeshift bed in her home in the Bekaa Valley. 

For Sana, getting her three kids to sleep every night is a struggle. They will doze off, but often won’t sleep through the night, because of their nightmares.

Sana’s husband was killed when their farm was bombed in Syria. She and her kids found his body. Her children have had trouble sleeping ever since.

Almost half a million people have died since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. Life expectancy dropped from 70.5 years in 2010 to an estimated 55.4 years in 2015.

HuffPost

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