Samira

Warm homes, warm hearts

The warmth of summer is now gone, and winter is just around the corner – Cold wind is slowly creeping and leaves are changing colours. It’s a season for comfort, good food and warmth. Well, in reality, this is not the case for everyone. People in Lebanon, who endured one of the worst economic crises in contemporary history are left without many options to keep their families warm.

According to UNESCWA, the ongoing economic, social and political crises has alarmingly increased the multidimensional poverty rate in Lebanon (deprived in one or more dimension such as education, health, and income…), almost doubling from 42 per cent in 2019 to 82 per cent of the total population in 2021, with nearly 4 million people living in multidimensional poverty – North of Lebanon is the most affected where 40,000 households are in extreme poverty.

Cash Assistance alleviates stress on families

Last winter families in the north of Lebanon faced a tough season, they were caught unprepared during one of the coldest years – The devaluation of the currency, hyperinflation and most importantly the removal of subsidies on fuel and diesel were all factors in their suffering. This year, the situation is even worse with the global increase of fuel prices, in addition to the ongoing crisis in the country.

“There were times we had to rely solely on blankets to stay warm. We ran out of wood to put in the heater. My children were constantly sick due to how cold our home became,” says thirty-year-old Shahira. The devaluation of the currency is heavily impacting Shahira and her family. “My husband works at the municipality; he still gets his salary on the old 1,500 Lebanese Pounds (LBP) rate. His salary is only 850,000 LBP (around 25 USD). Imagine feeding 10 people with that amount!”

Shahira 1

The severity of last winter still persists in Shahira’s memory. “My children spent most of last season in bed – either sick or trying to stay warm. We have one heater in the living room, so whenever we want to move around the house we must wear jackets as if we are going out,” says the mother of five. “In addition, my house is not well built for cold weather. The windows are not well built and curtains are very thin so cold air can easily sneak in. The house is full of humidity and the ceiling is on verge of collapsing,” reveals Shahira with a sad voice.

Under the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) Activation – Protracted Crisis Project, World Vision, funded by the Australian Government through the AHP, was able to support Shahira to meet the increasing costs of living through the provision of Unrestricted and Unconditional Cash Assistance. “Thanks to World Vision, this year the situation will be hopefully better. We are receiving payments of a total of 400 USD. This will help us be ready for the winter; we will buy wood made out of olive pomace to keep our home warm since it lasts longer than regular wood,” says Shahira.

Grateful for the support, Shahira will be able to keep her children well-nourished during this period. “Presently, a bag of bread costs 22,000 LBP, and we need around four every day. Since our winterisation needs are mostly met, I can focus my monthly spending on buying food for the children.”

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According to initial findings from the livelihoods needs assessments conducted by World Vision Lebanon in Akkar, around 81% of people fortunate enough to find a job are paid under 4,801,000 LBP (around 120 USD) per month, which is almost half of the minimum expenditure basket (SMEB) 257 USD.

Three years of the devastating financial crisis, Lebanese families are increasingly plunged into extreme poverty. These families are forced to adapt to new norms, where basic needs are considered a luxury. “We are a large family – nine people living in this household. We are trying to adjust to a new way of life, where prioritizing our spending is a must,” says sixty-seven-year-old Samira. “Of the nine people, only my eldest is working. He is making five million LBP (around 130 USD). We also have a cow, which brings an additional three million LBP. However, due to the high prices of fodder (food for the cow), it is not profitable anymore.”

Samira 1

Similar to most families in Akkar, last winter was a true challenge for Samira and her family. “Our home is far from equipped for cold weather. Every time it rains our home is filled with water due to leakage from the windows and doors. I put towels and plastic to hold the outflow from flooding our home,” she explains. “We are unable to fix the house since we have more pressing issues to deal with. My husband is very sick, he has heart and nerve problems, and diabetes. Furthermore, my small daughter is deaf, she requires a lot of attention.”

Samira and her family also benefited from cash assistance under the project in the hope to alleviate their needs during winter. “For this season, we started collecting small branches of wood. Certainly, they are not enough, they are just a catalyst for bigger wood (which is not available). Thanks to your support we can buy bigger wood,” says Samira. “Most of our income in winter goes for heating, yet we are not warm enough. Presently, I can rest assured my husband will not get cold and subsequently sick.”

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Alternative heating methods

In addition to the cash assistance, World Vision’s partner LebRelief is conducting awareness sessions on heating preservation techniques and alternative heating methods for beneficiaries in the area. “During our assessment of households, we noticed that many families still do not know how to properly keep their homes warm and the alternative heating methods,” Says Ghida, Social worker with LebRelief.

In regards to the heating preservation techniques, the sessions provided essential information on how to preserve the heat inside the households following specific steps such as: cleaning the roof and the drains, closing cracks, in addition to installing translucent nylon on steel windows and doors. As for the alternative heating methods, beneficiaries were informed that wood made out of olive pomace contains high energy density compared with regular firewood and at a much lower cost than wood coal.

session

“I was not aware of all the important information shared during the session. A lot of people tend to cut down trees to use as firewood. Obviously, this is not good for the environment; those trees can’t be replaced,” says Ahmad who attended the session. “I think no one is using diesel for heating, since it is ridiculously expensive. Also, normal firewood burns fast and does not last long, thus I believe that olive-dried wood is the cheapest, most efficient and climate-friendliest option.”

This project aims to support around 10,500 highly vulnerable individuals in Akkar, North of Lebanon, with Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance and awareness messages so they can be well prepared for the winter season.