“We never had much. I had become an orphan at the age of 17 and I had to raise my ten younger siblings. I’ve done every imaginable job so far. Vendor, glazier, removal helper. Then I met my wife. I was 30 and knew it was time for me to start my own family.“
Sahira and Jamil Skandar from Hermel, Lebanon, have been married for 35 years and have five children – three sons and two daughters. Two of their sons, Shadeh (26) and Ali (21), live with severe disabilities and are entirely dependent on full time care. This situation has pushed the family to its limits for years.
Nursing the sons in need of care takes a lot of time
The couple’s life doesn’t allow them to spend much free time together. Although their daughters are both married and their third son is in school every day, the care of Shadeh and Ali takes up all their time.
Both sons require artificial nutrition. This not only means that the family needs expensive equipment, but also that the food must be provided. An empty container for the artificial food costs 11 USD. Shadeh and Ali each need five such containers a day, which is USD 770 a week, almost USD 3,000 a month.
As the family cannot afford this, the mother sterilizes the containers and uses them over and over again, instead of using new ones, as you would normally do, at each meal. The food used is also prepared by the mother. She boils vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates, milk and olive oil, then dries and powders everything afterwards. When needed, she mixes the powder with water and refills the empty containers.
Sahira and Jamil are both very ill themselves. Jamil has been struggling with kidney problems for 20 years, resulting in an acute kidney failure in 2009. A kidney transplant, with a kidney donated by his wife, saved his life. But ever since, he is dependent on expensive medicine that they can hardly afford.
The Syria Crisis and the resulting flight of about 5.3 million people has tremendous impacts not only on the lives of those affected but also on those of the host communities. To this day, almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees have arrived in Lebanon.
Such population growth is a challenge for the region, where resources were already scarce before the Syrian and current economic crisis. For this reason, the GRC carries out cash projects that support not only the refugees, but also vulnerable members of the host communities, such as the Skandar family. These regular cash payments give the affected people the opportunity to get for themselves what they really need. At the same time, the freedom to choose restores their dignity and autonomy.
Standardized relief supplies, such as hygiene kits or food packages, are indispensable. However, they often do not meet all existential needs. For example, one family needs medication to treat an illness, while another family cannot pay the next month’s rent. Through repeated assistance payments the Red Cross enables people to meet their own personal needs. At the same time, these payments help to preserve the autonomy and dignity of those affected.
A welcomed assistance
Although the Red Cross cash support cannot cover all the costs for treatment and medicine of the Skandar family, the monthly amount gives them a security for which they are very grateful.
„Our blender, which we need to prepare our sons‘ food, broke down last month. Without the Red Cross support, we would not have been able to afford a new one.“
The couple can also use the money to buy food and clothes. Previously they had to rely on the help of their family and neighbors, who always and repeatedly offer their support. Even the nearby supermarket knows about the family’s fate and allows them to buy on credit whenever they need it. Nevertheless, Jamil is happy to use his own money to buy what is really needed, without his friends and family having to step in.
„Worries and sadness are not allowed in our house. We would do anything for our children and just want them to live their lives as happily as possible.“
Despite their fate, the Skandar family is happy and laughs a lot. They like to be active and hope that eventually they too can live a normal life. They wish to be able to do things together sometimes and to spend time with their neighbours and Family.
Photos: Oana Bara/German Red Cross