Sami has just been discharged from hospital. The little boy is recovering from a terrible chest infection and thankfully, on this occasion, his parents Amani and Mazen had enough money to pay for the medicine and treatment he needed.
Sami’s family is receiving the help and cash assistance they need to survive but UNHCR currently has some 18,000 families on the waiting list and there is simply not enough money to go around. We at UNHCR are on the frontline; can you help to provide Syrian families with a lifeline?
Thanks to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the young couple and their two little boys Sami (1.5 years) and Kahlid (five years) are now receiving monthly cash assistance that covers the cost of the rent on their miniscule apartment, giving them the ability and freedom to pay for other essentials such as healthcare.
“The cash assistance is the only thing that keeps us safe and we’ve been getting it for six months now,” says Mazen. “It is so important to my family – without the cash for rent we would not have been able to pay for the healthcare for Sami. We’re very lucky to get help from UNHCR as we know there are so many Syrian families in Jordan and everyone is struggling.”
Love and loss in war
Since the start of the war in Syria, life has changed dramatically for this young family. The war has bought heartache, loss and displacement but also moments of love and joy. “The war bought us together and we married under the falling bombs in Syria,” says Amani. “Our family became the most important thing and so we fled.”
In the four years since Syrian’s started to flee the country, Jordan has seen an influx of more than 625,000 children, women and men and resources have been stretched to the limit. 84 per cent of refugees like Amani and Mazen live in urban areas and UNHCR is struggling to help the most vulnerable families survive their years of exile.
Khalid (five years old) loves playing with his dinosaurs and learning but his parents have no extra money for school. Photo © UNHCR
“Our life was perfect before the war. We had a beautiful three-bedroom home in a nice part of Damascus. Everything was good… we had nothing to complain about. We had money to buy the best food for dinner,” says Mazen. “When we first arrived we had some savings and were supported by my uncle who remained in Syria. Back then no one thought the war would carry on for so long and so we thought we could cope but after so many years it is more difficult to survive. But these are the golden days – before we had the cash assistance we lived in a two room apartment with another family to try to save costs – now we have our own little place.”
The boxy room the family rents is barely six metres square. Two single beds frame one corner and a small kitchenette fills the other. There is no place for the children to play inside or out – outside the apartment is an open, empty lift shaft with a five storey drop and rubbish and building materials litter the stairwell. A large fluffy teddy bear dwarfs the boys’ bed and a small bucket is filled with a handful of toys that Khalid and Sami were given by kind Jordanians. Khalid loves playing with his dinosaurs and learning with his mother but as yet, there has been no extra money to send him to school.
Mazen & Amani live with their boys, in a micro-apartment but they’re pleased to have a place of their own. © UNHCR/ S. Rich
“We do worry about Khalid. He should be starting school now but we have no extra money to pay for the uniform or books. It’s so important he goes to school – he loves learning and it’s the only thing we can give him. He can write his name now in Arabic and English and he knows the colours in English too.”
The dignity of freedom and choice
Once a month, Mazen receives a text message from UNHCR to tell the family their assistance has been deposited in their bank account. Innovative iris scan technology means there are no bankcards or pin numbers to remember, instead Mazen simply scans his iris at a special ATM machine and the money can then be withdrawn.
Every month Mazen and Khalid walk to collect the family cash assistance from the nearest bank. © UNHCR/ S. Rich
“As a refugee you feel as though the control in your life has been taken from you and your freedom is gone. We have to accept assistance – it hurts my pride every month having to take money that I did not earn, having to accept help from people – but at least cash give us a little dignity and we can pay the rent and live away from the camps. That is why this help from UNHCR is so important. Both Amani and I know what the children need the most and with cash we can make sure they get it.”
“Even so there is not enough. I don’t know how other families are coping. We can’t afford good fresh food for Khalid and Sami. Taking them to a restaurant as we used to, that is a dream now!”
Dreams of home
While Amani and Mazen are grateful for the help they are receiving, they hope more than anything that the war in Syria will end and that they will be able to return home.
“We are resourceful people and we can help ourselves if we’re given the opportunity. I want to give my boys a future – I need to draw them the path to the future and that starts with a stable, safe home. I want them to succeed and go back to Syria to help end the bitterness. Amani and I are doing our best – we are trying to bring the boys up to be strong, resourceful but also to forget the bitterness that has got our country in this position.”
Amani, Mazen, Khalid and Sami are receiving the help and cash assistance they need to survive but UNHCR currently has some 18,000 families on the waiting list and there is simply not enough money to go around. Cash assistance can lift families out of poverty by delivering more money directly into the hands of the vulnerable families who need it the most. We at UNHCR are on the frontline; can you help to provide Syrian families with a lifeline?
To learn more, please visit: http://donate.unhcr.org/international/cash