Cash for Work: A Lifeline for Syrian Refugees



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Cat Carter, Head of Humanitarian Information & Communications

Save the Children UK

September 24, 2013


Father of three Ahmad grins at
me from inside his tent. It’s a wide, toothy grin and I’m immediately charmed.
We shake hands and he invites us inside, settling us down on the floor with a
blanket before insisting we take coffee. It’s Ramadan, and I’m keenly aware that
it must be hard for fasting Muslims to watch as others drink (those observing
Ramadan don’t eat or drink anything all day, until sundown), but he insists and
eventually simply brings out a pot of coffee and pours it for us. He sits down
to explain why they eventually left Syria, after more than two years of
conflict.

“We
were surviving only day-to-day, and if I missed even one day of working because
of the fighting, I could not afford the food for my family. And that is what
happened in the end, the fighting meant we could not work, and food was too
expensive. We borrowed some money to pay for a little food, but that soon ran
out. We could not afford to survive – there was no life for us left in Syria.”

Ahmad
pauses for a moment, remembering Syria. We wait silently, sipping our hot,
strong coffee.

He
looks at his children and continues softly “it is the worst feeling as a
father, being unable to give your children food – worse even than the bullets
and shells.”

 

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Now
in Lebanon, it’s still a struggle, but things are a little better for Ahmad.
He’s been working with Save the Children’s Cash for Work programme, which
involved him cleaning up the camp. He was paid in cash (better than payment
with food vouchers because it gives the family the option to buy exactly what
they need). He used the cash for water and food for the whole family, and tells
me it lasted a long time. His gratitude is evident, but I’m embarrassed to
receive it – as a compromise I promise to pass on the thanks to the Save the
Children Cash for Work team responsible for setting up the project.

 

We
talk more generally about the situation in Syria, and what Ahmad thinks will
happen next. Working in the field, you’re often told to avoid contentious
topics like politics and religion.. But Ahmad isn’t interested in siding with
the opposition or the government.

 

He
shakes his head sadly at me and tell me that this whole war “is a war on
children – food, water, shells – they all kill the children first”. He tells me
that he just wants peace, so he can take his children home. 

 

Read Save the Children's report Hunger in a War Zone

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