Ahmad and Ibtissam are worried about their children now that heavy storms are at the door

Monday 11 January 2016

"Last winter we luckily survived the storms. We did not have a stove", says Ahmad.

A little bit of time is left for Syrian refugees to seek solutions to keep their families warm before the harsh weather and heavy storms arrive in Lebanon. 30-year-old Ahmad and his 25-year-old wife Ibtissam are as worried as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who live in informal settlements in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon, especially that they currently do not have money to buy a stove or any heating.

 “Last winter we luckily survived the storms. We did not have a stove. But even if we had one, we wouldn’t have been able to afford oil”, says Ahmad as he remembers last winter’s suffering, especially that his wife Ibtissam gave birth to their baby. “Our neighbors donated clothes to the newborn or else we wouldn’t have been able to keep him warm”.

 Despite neighbors’ constant support, winter remains a bad memory for Ahmad and Ibtissam. “When the snow hit our tent, it collapsed over our heads. My children got wet and fell sick for several days. We had to move to a temporary tent for me to fix and improve this one in order for it to bear storms”, he says as he points to the door that he built using timbers distributed last year by Save the Children as part of their shelter assistance to Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

 “We had a hard time sleeping last winter. We woke up several times every night to check on our children and to find them shivering. The only thing we could do was covering them with the blanket that we were covered with. We could handle the cold ourselves, but they wouldn’t”, says Ibtissam.

 Recently, Ahmad managed to repair some of the holes in his tent to avoid water leakage. However, he is not sure that his tent is robust enough to face to coming storms. 

 “I am managing to buy food on credit; however I am concerned not to find a way to improve my tent and secure heating for my family. I need a stove, oil, timbers and plastic sheets. I also need to buy thick clothes to my children”, he says as he expresses his unresolved concerns.

 Having lived in an informal settlement for the recent three years since they fled the conflict in Syria, Ahmad and Ibtissam have exhausted all their savings. Back home in Aleppo, Ahmad used to be farmer from a well-off family. However, he has been unemployed since last year. “When we arrived here, I have tried to find a job to provide for my family. I worked in construction in hard conditions”, he says. “Now that I am unemployed, I am drowning in debt. I buy food from grocery shops on debt, and then borrow money from neighbors to reimburse the shop. I currently owe US$ 4,000 to people that I borrowed money from”, he says.

 As heavy storms are at the door, Ibtissam is scared that she might not be able to protect her children.

 “Two days ago, the weather got really cold and it heavily rained. My baby boy Abboud got immediately sick. He has been throwing up since then. He might have caught a cold. Last year, a four month baby died from the cold in this settlement. I am very worried about my children”, ends Ibtissam with tears in her eyes.