Small Victories

14 February 2014
Small Victories


"Our parents told us about the Nakba of 1948," says Lama. "We didn't experience that. But we are having our nakba now, and it's painful." A Palestine refugee from Syria, Lama represents a link in the chain of Palestinian suffering; she heard the stories of 1948 from her parents and will tell the story of the Syrian conflict to her children and grandchildren. 

This story begins in Yarmouk, the besieged Palestine refugee camp in Damascus. Lama's husband, Mohammad Jaafari, explains that shrapnel destroyed the family home, and when the situation grew worse, he and Lama fled with their three children to Lebanon. After three nights of exhaustion, deprivation and displacement, they arrived in Beddawi refugee camp, but like many of the Palestine refugees from Syria seeking shelter in Lebanon, they found new challenges waiting for them. 

"We spent that morning walking aimlessly through the roads and alleys," Mohammad continues, adding that they were unable to go for long because of medical problems - he and one of his daughters, 7-year-old Tala, suffer from epidermolysis bullosa, a disease of the connective tissue. 

"We were no longer living in an impoverished world in Syria - that's why we feel this humiliation, indignity and deprivation," Lama adds. What makes it worse is her worries about Tala: "Her disease is worse day after day. I had to stop sending her to school because the students there didn't accept her. There is no cure for her disease, there is no treatment provided to us." Losing her home was one thing, but losing her daughter's future is another blow. 

Adjusting to Lebanon has been a slow, difficult process. After the first few tiring days in Beddawi, the family received shelter and financial assistance from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that made it possible for them to rent a two-room house. The rent, however, is expensive, and the house quickly grew crowded as relatives joined them in fleeing from the conflict engulfing Syria. 

In these circumstances, every small success is important. "At the end of 2013, with cash assistance from UNICEF, we were able to buy winter clothes for our children to protect them from the bitter cold," Lama says, adding that the rest of the money was spent on blankets and covers. 

UNICEF is one of the largest UNRWA partners in supporting education and health activities for Palestine refugee children; in the fields of education, protection and health and sanitation, UNICEF has provided UNRWA with over US$ 4.0 million since the beginning of the conflict, along with generous in-kind assistance. Since 2011, UNICEF has also provided US$ 1.2 million to support regular UNRWA education efforts, including learning support activities and back-to-school kits. 

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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