Layla and Sana Sleep without Fear of Snakes
Five scorching summers gave way to even rougher winter seasons, and Hadi* was still in desperate search for a roof to protect his two kids from harsh weather conditions that hit hard over the years.
The 30-year-old father of two and his wife, Latifa*, fled Syria when the shelling began in their town in Idlib, north-west of the country. The family was among the first to flee the deadly events and seek refuge beyond the Syrian borders.
Finding a place to stay in was an instant predicament for Hadi and his family. With what they could carry of items, they had to move constantly around Akkar, North Lebanon, to seek shelter. The lack of basic needs and scarcity of resources meant they had to fight for their very survival.
‘’Back in Syria, I used to work in farms, but I couldn’t find work here,’’ Hadi said, his arms wide open. ‘’There was one occasion when I worked as a concrete finisher for one month and got only half-paid.
‘’Movement is restricted and the area where we live is deprived. I only go to the shop to get food and come back. I can’t pay for what I buy. I ask people for patience whenever they remind me of what I owe them.’’
Hadi and Latifa now live with their two girls, Layla* and Sana*, in a substandard house that used to be a makeshift room when they first arrived. The struggle with what life offered was too great to put up with.
‘’This house you see was a room when we moved around three years ago,’’ explained Hadi with a glum look that seemed to hide unpleasant memories.
‘’We built a room that was basically nothing like a place where humans would live. [The original room] was infested with reptiles and rodents. You would see a snake slithering around or get a sting from a wasp. I took my wife to the hospital after a centipede bit her. The kids would have insects hidden in their clothes.
‘’The ceiling was too fragile that it caved in and caused my wife to abort. We had to bear these conditions for over a year.’’
Having received Hadi’s appeal for help, Save the Children transformed the room into a house where his daughters can finally sleep calmly at night. The support came as part of the Integrated Response to Meeting the Needs of Children and their Communities; a large-scale project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) to address shelter needs of children in Lebanon.
The room underwent a complete overhaul. Shelter and WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) components were installed. The floor was layered and doors and windows constructed.
Hadi’s family is now eligible to stay in the house for the next year without having to pay a rental, after an agreement between Save the Children and the landlord, who, in return, had his house rehabilitated.
‘’Thankfully, Save the Children’s response was instant. Few weeks and the works were finished.
“It certainly feels safer now. We have also been exempted from rent for a year. Things have improved a lot. I am grateful for that.’’
Seeing their children grow up and receive education is a wish Latifa insisted they want to fulfil.
‘’Layla is four-years-old and Sana is two,’’ she said, adjusting her grey scarf as Sana tried to untie it.
‘’Layla goes to the nursery. She is starting to learn and speak. It’s our dream to see her grow up and learn.
Sana stays here all day. She doesn’t speak a lot as she is here alone,’’ Latifa’s voice tailed away in disappointment. ‘’Her toys are stones. She forgot how toys look like.’’
Hadi and Latifa believe that no home can feel like home. The dream of a better tomorrow still occupies their mind. For five years, this tomorrow is yet to arrive.
‘’A return home is something that we still look forward to,’’ said Hadi persistently.
‘’We want this struggle to end. Every night we pray for a better tomorrow. But days come and go without any change or improvement.’’
*Names are changed for protection purposes.