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What a difference a year makes

What a difference a year makes
How regular food assistance is key for maintaining stability for refugees in Lebanon

“A lot has changed,” explained Rasmiya.

A year ago she told the World Food Programme (WFP) about her struggles as a single mother of six. At that time, she was barely coping, struggling to make ends meet after spending her savings to make up for the devastating cuts to her one reliable lifeline — food assistance from WFP. A severe lack of funding meant that WFP was forced to halve the cash for food given to Syrian refugees like Rasmiya.

One year later, we went back to see her in the Bekaa.

Those reductions hit families hard. Seventy percent ate fewer meals each day. Seventy-seven percent bought food on credit or borrowed the cash. Some withdrew children from schools and sent them to work.

2016 was bad. “This year is difficult, but not that bad,” explained Rasmiya. “Then we could barely eat, but now we are fine.”

In spring, she moved out of her cramped leaking shelter into a two room apartment a few kilometres away. She is sharing it with her brother-in-law’s family and is happy to have moved before winter, just around the corner.

Now she has a sink — an upgrade from a bucket in her former home. Above the sink is a window with an uninterrupted view of the east Bekka hills. That is the Syria-Lebanon border — the border between her former and current lives.

This year, Rasmiya’s three youngest children started school too. Education is an added expense Rasmiya could not afford if it weren’t for external help from a local NGO.

Rasmiya is more positive this year; after all a lot has changed. Consistent funding from donors since 2016 allowed WFP to provide the most vulnerable Syrian refugees like her with US$ 27 for food each month. Being able to rely on WFP is something worth smiling about.

“Things are more normal,” she explains. Granted it is not the life that she wants, but it is an improvement.

Sourcing enough food for her children was Rasmiya’s main worry. With that taken care of by WFP, she focused her attention on getting her children into school, to moving house, to restoring stability and a sense of normalcy.

WFP continues to provide vital food assistance to almost 700,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon and will continue to as long as it is needed, funding permitted.

Find out about WFP’s work in Lebanon.