Almost seven months have passed since the first reported Covid-19 case in Lebanon on February 21, 2020. Since then, reported cases have dramatically increased in the country. Safety measures are now even more essential, especially in crowded places such as informal settlements. One young man who takes these safety measures seriously is 14-year-old Ahmad. He has to. To realize his dreams, he has to stay healthy and strong—in mind, body, and spirit.
Ahmad has spent half his life living as a refugee in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, one of 880,414 registered refugees in the country, most of whom fled the war in Syria. He was 7 when he escaped his hometown, Daraa, in southwestern Syria, with his family. “I don’t remember much from my life back there, but my parents told me that life used to be much better,” says Ahmad. The Covid-19 outbreak greatly affected Ahmad’s social life. “I used to enjoy going to school to learn new stuff and meet my friends, but after the lockdown, we switched to learning from home on our phones. Honestly, I don’t understand everything on the mobile and I miss my friends,” says Ahmad. “I also rarely go outside to play with my friends so I spend most of my time inside the tent colouring, playing games on the phone, and studying from time to time.”
In spite of everything they have gone through, 2020 has been one of the hardest years for Ahmad’s family. “We escaped Syria looking for peace and safety, on other hand we find ourselves facing an economic crisis, inflation in prices, and a pandemic. Could life be any harder for us?” asks Ahmad’s mother, Neema. “My husband is a daily worker. He is working maybe once every two or three weeks. We only depend on humanitarian aid to survive. I only wish the economic situation will get better so we can continue living a normal life,” she says.
World Vision, with support from UNICEF and funding provided by the governments of the United States and Canada, provided Ahmad and his family with water trucking, desludging services and awareness sessions on how to stay safe from Covid-19. The family received cloth masks, sanitizer, and soaps. “I am not scared as I used to be from the virus because I learned a lot during the session with World Vision and now I know how to stay safe and all the safety measures,” says Ahmad. “I constantly wash my hands with water and soap, I try not to touch my eyes, nose or mouth when my hands are not clean, I use hand sanitizer whenever I can’t wash my hands. I keep a safe distance of one and a half meter from people and most importantly I make sure that I wear the mask before going outside.”
Ahmad makes sure his family stays safe as well. “I always try to pass the information I learnt to my siblings,” he says. “I know I have a strong immune system but I am worried about my parents. I always ask them to wear a mask before they go out because their safety is important to me.”
With every distribution, World Vision staff explains how to use the products and how to benefit from them during the pandemic—how a person can use sanitizer when they are bringing items from the grocery store and when there is no access to water and soap. World Vision has also increased the amount of water trucking to six times per month for every household since water plays a crucial role in the safety measurements. The WASH team has conducted 839 awareness sessions in the informal settlements in Bekaa, distributed sanitizer, masks, and hygiene items and has trucked around 16 million litres of clean water.
Ahmad, who admires footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, dreams of becoming a football player one day for Real Madrid, his hero’s former team. But because of the virus, he is not able to go outside and play. Ahmad also wishes to become a pharmacist so he could help in treating ill people. “I hope one day this virus will end so we can carry on with our normal lives like before, but until then I will make sure to keep learning and studying so I have a better future when I grow up,” says Ahmad. “I will not let these difficulties break my spirit because I know it is a phase and it will pass, hopefully.”