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Patching things up - UNRWA cash assistance is a lifeline for Palestine refugees
“The situation is overwhelming. My family has immediate needs which are beyond my ability to cope. We face food insecurity and vulnerability,” said Raeda Mohammad, a Palestine refugee beneficiary of UNRWA cash assistance. A single mother, 51-year-old Raeda is the breadwinner of her family who lived in her own house in Yarmouk, but was forced to flee with her family and whatever possessions she could save when the situation worsened in the camp. Her journey ended up in eastern Kisweh, in Rif Damascus where she lives with her three children in a rented apartment for a monthy rent of SYP 100,000 (US$ 28.50) monthly rent. Raeda cannot return to her home because it was looted and needs reconstruction that she cannot afford. “My children and I have gone without many things. For a couple of months, we didn’t eate more than one meal a day," she recalled. Raeda suppliments her salary as an elementary teacher in a community-run school by packaging lollipops and candies or picking fruit at local farms in the afternoon. “I’m always shrouded in worry and fear when a new month approaches and I am required to pay the rent,” she shared.
Raeda is among the hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees in Syria who have been repeatedly displaced and face dramatic changes in all aspects of their lives as a result of the ongoing displacement. The protracted conflict continues to have shattering consequences for ordinary people like Raeda, who have lost their homes and livelihoods. “I always look forward to receiveing UNRWA cash assistance to help me survive with my children amidst difficult conditions of displacement and skyrocketing prices. Although it is not sufficient, it mitigates the worst impacts of our displacement and helps us,” Raeda said with a deep sigh.
As with Syrians, Palestine refugees have their resources depleted and are unable to make ends meet or bring food to table. Both Syrians and Palestine refugees are going through the worst economic crisis since the conflict began, with the prices of basic goods rapidly rising day by day.
Like Raeda, displaced refugees are doing their best to meet the growing needs of their children and the prolonged displacement had deepened food and livelihood insecurity. “We live in a constant state of worry. The protracted conflict has taught us how to eat frugally. My children and I have forgotten what meat tastes like. It’s like our brains have forgotten what meat and fruits taste like. We stopped buying meat and chicken, because we cannot afford the high prices. We have not eaten meat for more than seven years,” she said.
Describing her worries about winter, Raeda continues, “We continue to face enormous hardship. The winter months are challenging for us. We struggle to survive cold and face freezing temperature because we cannot afford to buy mazout (fuel) to run the stove.”
Speaking through tears, Raeda explained that life has become very difficult for her. “Life is unbearable. We are trying to recover from the trauma of the conflict. I am always trapped in debt and struggling to pay off my debts. The moment I receive UNRWA cash assistance I immediately make my calculations as to how I will disburse it to cover the debt I’ve accumulated, pay the rent, and buy other necessities including food, clothing, etc. It is very stressful when you are unable to pay off your debts. As a parent, it breaks my heart to know that I can’t improve my children’s living conditions or provide for their needs, especially that my son and daughter are studying at university and need money to help with their academic studies. I hope UNRWA could consider providing us with cash assistance on a monthly basis,” said Raeda.
Against this complex and challenging operating environment, UNRWA cash assistance programme remains one of the pillars of the Agency’s emergency response. This vital assistance is made possible with the contributions from key partners like the European Union European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). UNRWA appreciates ECHO supports for Palestine refugees, as they strive to meet their humanitarian needs with the dignity of choice.
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