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There is always a bill, but now there’s some help to pay it

There is always a bill, but now there’s some help to pay it
In January, we visited Fadwa to ask out how multi-purpose cash assistance was impacting her life. Six months later, we returned.
On the surface, not much has changed.

Fadwa still lives in a makeshift shelter in the corner of a car park in Beirut. In January, it was leaking and cold. Now the air doesn’t circulate and it’s unbearably muggy. Cars race past one side of the structure and her children scoot around on broken bikes in the car park. It’s still inadequate and hazardous, yet Fadwa is smiling.

A small purchase makes all the difference

Back in January, she had to go to the market everyday to buy food because there was nowhere to store it. Now she has a fridge — it’s her biggest purchase this year. By saving some of her cash and adding more from her husband’s income, Fadwa was able to save enough money to buy a second-hand fridge. She is now able to buy and store a wider range of fresh food, thanks to support provided by the United Kingdom.

During its most recent assessment, WFP found a 13 percent increase (up to 74 percent) in the number of families with an acceptable food consumption score. That score is an index measurement of the range of food groups eaten by a family.

Taking charge of family needs

There are two shelves of brown bottles in the fridge. It is medicine for the children's various ailments. “I always have one sick child,” she explained. Back in January, she had to cut down on food in order to afford medicine. Now she has both.

Being able to choose where to spent limited funds is a huge improvement for Fadwa and the core component of WFP’s multi-purpose cash programme. With the monthly US$27 (£20) that each member of the family receives plus a US$175 (£130) top up, Fadwa is taking charge of meeting the family’s needs for the first time since they left Syria.

he multi-purpose cash programme which is largely funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), gives recipients the autonomy to decide where and how to spend their humanitarian assistance.

Looking back at harder times

When we last met Fadwa, she told us that food is her first priority. WFP learned the same of other families receiving multi-purpose cash in Lebanon. 91 percent of families receiving it prioritised food.

Fadwa always knew where to find the best deals with the help of a network of friends and family spread around Beirut. They keep in touch by WhatsApp, sharing updates from Syria as well as tips on where to find the best deals around town. Now with a couple of dollars each month, she is able to keep that link open with home.

A bit of extra cash reserved for tutoring costs has also been freed up now that the summer vacation started. Four of the five children are in school and 14-year-old Moutaz was receiving private lessons. Since he caught up with his class and passed his English exam this semester, they are no longer paying for the teacher. As well as giving Moutaz something to be proud of, the family now has a bit more cash to save for whatever tomorrow brings.

“There’s always a bill for something,” Fadwa explained, “but now I can pay them.”

Feeding hope
The family is getting by and is appreciative for the extra help from the United Kingdom. When asked, 98 percent of all families said they prefer receiving cash over other forms of assistance. But life is still exhausting Fadwa admits and she’s longing for a change.

“I used to dream about surviving, but now we’re fine. Now I dream of leaving this place and of having just one day at home in Deir Ezzor, but I heard our house was destroyed and there’s nothing to go back to. I used to have a garden with trees but now I live in a car park.”

The United Kingdom’s support is nourishing Fadwa’s hope of a return and keeping her going until then. Whilst it appears on the surface that not much has changed, there are enough subtle changes to her family’s life to suggest otherwise.

Read more about WFP’s work in Lebanon .