For 55-year-old Jamal Hamzeh and his family, the UNRWA food assistance he received last November, made possible by generous support from the United Arab Emirates, has been a lifeline. Like the majority of the 480,000 Palestine refugees in Syria affected by the armed conflict, Jamal, his wife and five children rely on UNRWA distributions to meet their basic nutritional needs.
Jamal is struggling to provide for his family. “The current situation has severely impacted us. My family’s needs are beyond my ability to cope,” he said. Three years ago, hostilities forced the Hamzeh family to flee their home in Beit Saham, Damascus, and shelter at a farm in Najha. Six months ago, violence flared up around the farm and they were forced to move again, taking refuge in Jaramana Camp.
The family lost their livelihood and Jamal now supports them by selling vegetables on the roadside with his 13-year-old son. A disability caused by polio prevents him from finding better paid work. Jamal uses his small income to buy supplementary food and support his children’s education. The soaring cost of goods and services in Syria means the family’s budget is stretched beyond capacity and they have been unable to afford meat for a long time.
The monthly food assistance Jamal receives from UNRWA provides a reliable and much-needed source of nourishment. The food package he received in November contained staple foodstuffs including rice, lentils, cooking oil, sugar and pasta, and a guaranteed 700 kcals per day for every member of the Hamzeh family. Jamal hopes that future parcels will contain tinned fish and cheese so his wife can make some of their favourite dishes.
Recently, the family was able to move back to their home in Beit Saham, which endured only minor damage. This gives them a semblance of normality in the midst of the wider conflict. The family is grateful for the ongoing help from UNRWA and the UAE, which they rely on to sustain themselves as hostilities continue into their fourth year. “Although there will always be room for additional support, we greatly appreciate the assistance UNRWA and the UAE are providing to us,” Jamal said.
In July 2014, the UAE donated USD $15 million to provide food assistance to conflict-affected Palestine refugee families in Syria. This timely funding covers three food distribution rounds and is expected to reach over 360,000 Palestine refugees in critical need of assistance. The first distribution took place in November 2014, with UNRWA procuring and distributing over 630 metric tons of food parcels to 93,000 refugee families in and around Damascus. UNRWA is currently running the second distribution round.