From Syria to Lebanon: A Palestine refugee recounts his long journey

20 June 2021
Mohammed Omayya at his home in Beddawi camp, Lebanon. © 2021 UNRWA photo

Seventy-seven year-old Mohammed Omayya is a Palestine refugee who escaped from violence in Syria to Lebanon. He has been living in Beddawi refugee camp with his wife and son since January 2013. Originally from Tira in Haifa, Mohammed lived in al Yarmouk camp in Syria until December 2012. After the bombing of the Palestine mosque in the Donmar area, he recounts, “We left the camp seeking for safety and protection."

"We stayed in Burj Barajneh camp when we first arrived in Lebanon. After a few months we moved to Beddawi camp because we have relatives living there. In total, we have moved three times. It’s been very stressful for us psychologically,” Mohammed said.

Mohammed and his wife in their home in Beddawi camp, Lebanon. © 2021 UNRWA photo
Mohammed and his wife in their home in Beddawi camp, Lebanon. © 2021 UNRWA photo

"As soon as we arrived in Lebanon, we registered with UNRWA for the cash assistance made available to Palestine refugees from Syria. We have also been able to get our medication from the Agency, because my wife and I suffer from chronic diseases.”

Remembering his laundry business in Syria, Mohammed recalls, “I lost it, lost everything." He continues, “Now we fully depend on UNRWA monthly assistance. My son is jobless becaus he can't work in Lebanon. We are living in fear of the day when UNRWA' assistance stops. We will definitely be turned out to the streets,” he says.

Few months ago Mohammed contracted COVID-19. “I received treatment at home, but when my symptoms worsened, I was admitted to a hospital for specialized treatment. My son called an UNRWA hospitalization officer who made arrangements for my treatment immediately,” he says. “I was hospitalized for ten days. UNRWA paid for 100 per cent of my hospital expenses,” Mohammed added.

Mohammed’s treatment continues to present day. “Every ten days I need an oxygen treatment. The cost to fill it was 70,000L.L. It is now 100,000 L.L because of the high exchange rate against dollar. I'm waiting to receive our cash assistance from the Agency to refill my oxygen tube.  We also buy insulin for my wife with that cash assistance,” he highlights. “UNRWA provides us with monthly assistance, primary health care and hospitalization, and even then it isn’t not enough because of the bad economic situation in Lebanon now," he concludes.

People who have been forced to flee often struggle to find a doctor when they are sick. Far from home, they struggle to find schools for their children or even a place for them to play.  For the past 70 years, UNRWA has been there for Palestine refugees - providing them with universal basic health care and inclusive and gender-balanced quality education - ensuring that they shine in all areas of life. 

UNRWA will continue to adapt its services to their evolving human development and protection needs, in line with the times and the Agency’s mandate and assist Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territory (including East Jerusalem), until such time as there is a just solution to their plight. This World Refugee Day and all days, we stand with Palestine refugees.