Relieving the burden of hunger

Raba’a’s children were hungry, but they didn’t complain. They knew the pressure their mother was under to provide for the family.

“They notice there’s a difference [in the amount of food I give them], but they keep quiet because they know the situation.”

It is a heartbreaking decision for any mother to make, to be forced to give her children less food. But Raba’a didn’t have much of a choice until she started receiving vouchers she can redeem for food at local grocery stores.

Raba’a and her family were living in the Yarmouk neighbourhood of Damascus for about 10 years when they fled the Syrian war for safety in Jordan. Their home has been laid to waste; the remaining residents in Yarmouk are currently under siege and enduring horrific conditions.

Raba’a then became a single mother when her husband died of cancer shortly after they arrived in Jordan.

She needed a way to start supporting her family, so she enrolled in a hair-dressing course given by a local non-governmental organization.

She works from home; business is better in the summer, she says. She does not earn much, but she says it’s enough to pay rent, utilities and her children’s expenses, like school supplies.

Nevertheless, it’s a meagre new home for herself, her two daughters (ages 15 and 11) and her two sons (ages 9 and 6). They have no furniture in the two rooms she rents.

When you add in the food needs of a young family on a low income, it’s a struggle to make ends meet.

As refugees of Palestinian descent, they are even more vulnerable.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is mandated to support Palestinians, is badly underfunded and has limited resources to help Palestinians who have fled homes in Syria.

Because they fall under UNRWA’s mandate, Raba’a is not eligible to receive food vouchers from agencies like the United Nations World Food Programme, which can support other Syrian refugees.

Fighting hunger

Our food voucher programs aim to fill this gap for the most vulnerable families. Through agreements with UNRWA and the Jordanian government, our partner The Lutheran World Federation-Jordan can distribute food vouchers to Palestinian-Syrians. They’re able to do this with your support and with funding from our partner the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Starting this month, Raba’a will receive 60 Jordanian dinars (about $110) each month for six months to help feed her family.

An example of a voucher refugees can redeem for food at local grocery stores. CLWR/J.Clark

An example of a voucher refugees can redeem for food at local grocery stores. CLWR/J.Clark

She has already participated in a voucher distribution earlier this year which allowed her to cover the basics: rice, sugar, cooking oil, frozen vegetables, milk and sometimes meat. She says she relied on the vouchers for about 60 per cent of her family’s food needs.

“I feel more relaxed because I’ve secured food for my kids. I can start thinking more about how I can support my kids [in other ways].”

She says the vouchers are simple to redeem at grocery stores in her area.

“I’m tackling two responsibilities: mother in the house, and father outside the home” who needs to work and look after expenses, she says. The vouchers “relieve some of the burdens I have.

“I really thank CLWR for giving us food.”

  • Jennifer Clark, Communications Officer, Canadian Lutheran World Relief

Background: Since early 2014 CLWR has been working in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to assist 4,700 of the neediest Palestinian-Syrian (60 per cent of recipients) and Jordanian households (40 per cent of recipients) in Mafraq, Zarqa, East Amman and Irbid Governorates in Jordan with food vouchers aimed to increase their food intake. One of the goals of this project has been to assist both vulnerable Palestinian-Syrians and needy Jordanians. In this way the needs of refugees and the over-burdened Jordanian host community are both addressed.

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