Lebanon: Regaining Hope for Their Futures: Children overcome multiple crises in Lebanon
Over the past year, Lebanon have experienced a near total economic collapse, the impact of the Beirut port blast in August 2020, and the severe consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children have been gravely impacted by these multiple crises that have eroded their survival, learning and protection.
To bear witness to some of these challenging circumstances, it was important for me to return to Lebanon - my first country program visit since the lockdown began. Since my last visit, the situation for children and communities has exacerbated, especially for Syrian refugees and significant parts of the Lebanese population, commonly referred to now as the “noveau poor”. This was also an opportunity to re-connect with the Save the Children team who continue to do amazing work to help children and their caregivers overcome the emotional impact of the deteriorating situation.
It was an honour for me to spend time with a family in their home in Beirut as part of the visit. When I entered their living room, I was welcomed by the mother as her three boys were busy drawing and colouring. Their home was a scene of bustle and activity. One of the boys presented me with a welcome gift - an envelope with a card inside. The gift brought me great joy and illustrated to me the positive impact our support had made on the entire family whose lives were different now, compared to a few months ago.
In January 2021, when the Save the Children team first met this family, all three boys were working daily on the streets from 7 a.m. until about 1 p.m. looking for plastic and scrap metal that they would collect and sell. The sheer vulnerability of these boys was shocking as they faced violence and threats regularly from strangers. At the time, their father had a health problem which stopped him from working (which is now resolved through support from the project), and the boys were supplementing the family’s income. By her own admission, their mother was desperately worried about the children and the future of their family as they lived through a desperate situation.
A Save the Children case worker, who has supported this family since they were identified, spoke of how much fulfilment she had gotten from her work and the fact that she could see the lives of children and their parents change before her eyes throughout her team’s support.
This family was enrolled in a program aimed at supporting children and families engaged in some of the worst forms of child labour. Through a combination of care, commitment, professionalism and a real passion to support families and children in truly dire circumstances, the team have spent time working with the parents, and have provided the children specific and targeted psychosocial support.
The “package of support” that we deliver to families like these includes Multi-Purpose Cash, which allow parents to focus on getting the needed health services, and recovering without worrying about providing their children’s basic needs. We also provide the families with Cash for Rent, in order to prevent them from being evicted during the period of health recovery of the mother and father.
I asked the mother to tell me how their situation has changed since January. She said “everything is different” and described the support her family had received as “the best thing that has happened in my life” and, “can you imagine, that before I received support, I was beating my children?”
The children are now back to school, they have access to health care and their mother gets special psychological support from a professional network. In addition, they have received mattresses and blankets for both the children and parents.
Just asking children what they understand or how they feel may not be enough to get them to voice their feelings. Sometimes simply sitting with them while they draw a picture or play with their toys will help them find a way to communicate what they're feeling. I’m sure these children have so much more to say about their past experiences and their hopes for the future. I can’t wait to go back to Lebanon soon to see how much more resilient and ambitious they will become.
Jeremy Stoner, Regional Director, Save the Children Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office