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Beside a potato field in Lebanon
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Beside a potato field in Lebanon

A Syrian mother tells her story from her shelter in Lebanon

The door on their shelter is flimsy. It slams shut with a gust of wind.

The bang scares the children — it reminds them of fighting in Syria, but “at least we have a door,” Fadila says.

Fadila and her family live in a makeshift shelter in Akkar, northern Lebanon beside a potato field — an unremarkable field, but a vital lifeline.

They are Syrian refugees, living 500 kilometers from home with barely any belongings. They entered Lebanon with only the clothes on their backs and a bit of cash from the jewellery Fadila was able to sell at the border.

Struggle for survival

Fadila’s husband Maher is blind and cannot work. Her daughter Rama has chronic asthma, and her son Mostafa is too young to work. They receive US$108 each month from the World Food Programme (WFP) to buy food and UNHCR pays 75 percent of their extensive medical bills. To pay the rent and electricity for their shelter, Fadila works on a potato farm, earning US$1 an hour.

This month, the US$108 that they received for food from WFP was generously donated by the Government of Australia as part of its US$4.5 million contribution to WFP Lebanon that will be used over the next three years.

The family fled Deir Ezzor in 2016 when the city was consumed by fighting. Violence increased, food prices sky rocketed and rumours spread of child abductions. Fearing for their safety, Fadila and Maher grabbed their children and started walking, unsure of their plans or destination. After a tiring and uncertain journey by foot from eastern Syria, the family finally settled in northern Lebanon.

“We left Syria, but Syria didn’t leave my heart.”

Their story of struggle and survival is typical of thousands of Syrian families displaced by war.

When the flimsy door is open there is a verdant view. But it is a view that reminds Fadila of her daily toil, hunched over, picking potatoes. She is allowed to keep the smaller potatoes — the ones that farmers do not want to sell — the ones that are too hard to eat.

Beside a potato field is a peaceful place--a respite from war. But it is not home. “We left Syria, but Syria didn’t leave my heart,” Fadila explains. WFP provides monthly food assistance to Fadila’s family, nourishing her hope that “inshallah” one day soon they will be able to return home and the children can play again in the fields of Syria.

Story and photos by Edward Johnson, WFP Communication Officer in Lebanon

You can help the World Food Programme support Syrian families by donating today.