By Salam Abdulmunem
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, February 12, 2014– Two years ago 7-year old Aliya and her brother Ali watched their older siblings pack up and leave the conflict in Syria, for a safer life in Lebanon. Being the youngest, it was decided the two children should stay behind in the care of their parents.
A year later, as the fighting intensified in Idlib, in the northwest, their village came under heavy fire. “There were many missiles and rockets. Every day they would fall on us. I was afraid. My brother and I would hide in my room. I would hide in one corner and he would hide in another,” says Aliya.
Then, the house took a direct hit and their parents died in the attack.
Neighbors contacted their eldest brother, Abu-Thamer, in Lebanon, to deliver the sad news. Abu-Thamer says, “We had a large house. When I went back to get my little sister and brother all I found was a mound of rubble, that’s all that was left of the house. My little brother Ali didn’t speak at all until we got to Lebanon.”
Aliya cried as they drove away from her village: “I wanted to go back home. I was surprised when I first saw the tent here, I thought ‘my god, how can everyone stand this?’ But I got used to it after a week. I didn’t want to stay in the tent but when I thought of the bombing back home I told myself that this is better.”
Aliya and Ali now live with their brother, his wife and 13 others, in a single tent in the Dalhamieh informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley. Aliya says, “My favorite thing about being here is waking up in the morning, putting my sleeping mattress away and getting dressed for school. Sometimes we have bread dipped in oil and dried thyme for breakfast and sometimes we have a tin of sardines or a can of beans.”
Life is not perfect for Aliya, but she and her brother are lucky to have found a safe haven with their extended family.
Social workers are monitoring Ali’s health and providing him with psycho-social support to help him recover from the trauma of war. Aliya is happy to be going to school in the camp, saying, “Our school is closed now because of the rain, but I’m waiting for it to re-open, because I want to learn.”
UNICEF is active at the Dalhamieh tented settlement. Through our partner “Beyond” those living in the camp have access to mobile clinics providing basic health care services, as well as non-formal education opportunities.