Refugee hunger: A family’s story of survival.

Hunger is a very real fear in life. For those who are used to a middle-class lifestyle to be thrown into a refugee’s existence—it’s a nightmare. For Yussef Hawas, that nightmare became reality as his family fled the bombings and violence in Syria to go to Lebanon.

On their tenth day in Lebanon, Yussef Hawas’* family was eating bread and potatoes. They had only eaten bread during their first week in the foreign country.

 

“The children went out into the fields at night and picked up any leftover potatoes they could find,” explained Yussef’s sister Hiba.

Potatoes were piled on the floor in a corner of the cooking area in the family’s makeshift shelter, proof of the children’s efforts to help feed their family.

 A Life Left Behind

Yussef’s family had never left Syria until this time. They had owned their home in Syria. Yussef had worked as a guard at a school.

When a bomb destroyed the school and the ongoing violence put the family members’ lives at risk—Yussef and his wife decided they must leave for a safer place.

Eleven members of the extended family, ranging from a baby to an elderly grandfather, set out for Lebanon at 4 a.m. With a minimal and careful selection of belongings, including some cooking utensils and bedding, they set out to a country where they knew no one. The trip cost them three-quarters of their savings.

In Lebanon, the family found a shelter in a farming area out in a valley. The large, open concrete structure was used by others for dumping garbage, so Yussef’s family set to work cleaning it out. They hung plastic sheeting as partitions for cooking and sleeping areas. Using flour brought from Syria, the women were able to make bread so the family would not go entirely hungry.

Facing Extreme Problems

Now, winter is coming soon. The valley where Yussef’s family has taken refuge is expecting snow. There are many extreme problems facing the family:

  1. They are not eating properly, which is especially crucial for the development of the baby and four children.
  2. Their shelter does not provide adequate protection against the winter weather that is coming.
  3. The children are not in school.
  4. The family has no access to medical care.
  5. There is no income.
  6. The family is living daily, uncertain about how they will cope.

Yussef’s family is not an isolated case. Every day more Syrian refugee families are crossing Lebanon’s borders seeking safety. Unfortunately, the conditions they face in Lebanon are also extremely difficult, as there are not enough services to assist them all.

Getting Help to Families

In response to this situation, the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (Lebanese Baptist Society) is leading relief projects that include food distribution, with the ongoing support of overseas partners. The need of the refugee families is enormous and continues to grow as the crisis in Syria continues.

By partnering Food for the Hungry’s emergency response unit, you are helping families like Yussef’s to be able to find a measure of peace. We are working with local organizations to provide food and medical care to the streams of refugees. There is so much more to be done – we need your help. Pray for Yussef and other families in similar situations.

*Names have been changed for the protection of the refugees.

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