As Syrian and Iraqi refugee families in Lebanon face deteriorating financial conditions, many organisations are working to help them cope with the challenges of displacement and meet their basic needs.
Among them is Mission de Vie (Life Mission), headed by the Rev. Wissam Maalouf, which through its various field projects provides food, clothing, medicine and medical care to the poor in Lebanon.
Mission de Vie recently completed its fourth annual Unity and Solidarity campaign, which began distributing aid in late 2016 and concluded March 30th.
The three-phase campaign this year reached out to more than 1,000 needy Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi families, many of whom received support for the first time, campaign officials told Al-Mashareq.
In the final phase of the campaign, aid was distributed to 200 families at the organisation’s headquarters in Antelias, with Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi taking part in the distribution efforts.
"State institutions and civil society organisations are intertwined, as these organisations, along with religious organisations, fulfill needs the state's agencies cannot meet," Bou Assi said.
First-time aid seekers
Among those receiving assistance for the first time was Iraqi refugee Aziza Namroud, who told Al-Mashareq that since she and her family fled Mosul in 2014, they have been living "under very difficult financial circumstances".
"We left Basra as refugees in 2007 after my son was killed by terrorists and re-established our lives in Mosul, only to be displaced once again to Lebanon in 2014 because of the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL)," she said.
Namroud, who now lives in Sad el-Baouchriye with her husband and two sons, said this was the first time her family had received aid since they became refugees.
"Before today, we had not knocked on the door of any organisation for help," she said. "We relied on what was left of our money and the Martyr’s Compensation we received from the Iraqi government after the death of my son."
But with their conditions gradually deteriorating, Namroud said she sought assistance from Mission de Vie.
"The aid they gave us should help sustain my family for weeks," she said, adding that she signed up to receive periodic aid from Mission de Vie as her family is not registered with any humanitarian organisation.
Hesitation to ask for help
Aleppo native Antoinette Georges Fannoun, 70, came to the organisation for the first time after much hesitation to ask for food aid.
"I tried very hard to not reach the point where I would need to reach out to an organisation for sustenance," said Fannoun, who lives in a modest room in al-Hadath district.
"But I have no money left and my only son, who is 37 years old, has not found any work," she told Al-Mashareq.
"This is the first time since we arrived in Lebanon two years ago that my husband and I have asked for aid," said Damascus native Iman Zeitoun, a mother of two young children.
"We are in financial hardship because my husband lost his restaurant job," she told Al-Mashareq.
The family has had a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registration number since 2015, she said, but only used it once to get aid from UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders when she gave birth to her daughter.
That was almost two years ago, she said.
"I do not know how Mission de Vie found us, but we are thankful for the initiative, complete food ration and clothes for my children that it gave us," Zeitoun said.
Services for the poorest
"Since its founding in 2000, Mission de Vie has taken it upon itself to provide services to the poorest without any discrimination on the basis of colour, race, age or religion," Maalouf said. "We actively work to serve Syrian and Iraqi refugees and poor Lebanese, and today we care for more than 500 families."
Through its Unity and Solidarity campaign, the organisation seeks to reach out to new families who live "in poverty out of sight", Maalouf said.
These families "do not receive assistance from any official body or organisation concerned with displacement", he added.
"During the third and final phase of this year's campaign, which concluded on March 30th, we distributed comprehensive assistance to 200 new Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi families," he said.
The first and second phases served 1,000 families in a number of areas, he said, distributing food rations, including vegetables and fruit, adult and children’s clothing, toys, blankets and other basic necessities.
"What we give them helps them cope with their difficult daily lives away from home and remain steadfast," Maalouf said.
"Our work is not limited to providing them with aid, but also to stand by them, listen to their problems, help them face challenges and find jobs for them," he said, adding that the aid "does not stop when the campaign ends".
Ongoing support includes visiting families in their homes and providing them with aid donated by the local Lebanese population, he said.
"We want to affirm our constant presence by their side to tell them they are not forgotten in those life circumstances imposed upon them by war in their country," he said.