Written by

May 22, 2020

Born in a Refugee Camp: Mariam’s reality

Imagine only ever knowing life in a refugee camp. Imagine not knowing what it’s like to have your own home, to go to school or to feel safe and secure. Well, this is “normality” for five-year-old Mariam*. Born with Down Syndrome, Mariam has spent her entire life in a refugee camp on the border between Syria and Lebanon. Apart from living in poverty, she and her family face many challenges.

Five-year-old Mariam often cries as she’s bullied because of her physical appearance. Sometimes the other children in the camp don’t let her play with them. Yet despite this, it’s never stopped her from being sociable.


From a home to a refugee camp: Syria in crisis

The family hasn’t always lived in Lebanon. Mariam’s parents and older siblings fled Syria seven years ago to escape the conflict. Mariam’s older brother Ahmad* was just ten years old when he had to leave home with his family. Now, Mariam, Ahmad and eight other siblings still live in the refugee camp in abject poverty.

Due to Lebanon’s deteriorating economy, work is hard to come by. The salary from their father’s work is barely enough for the family to survive. This past Winter, they could not afford to buy wood for making a fire. They were forced to burn anything they could find to help fight off the freezing cold in the camp, including their old clothes.

Since arriving in Lebanon, Ahmed and his siblings have never been to school. They simply can’t afford the fees – around 30,000 LBP (R400) a quarter per child. For Mariam and her siblings, without an education there is no hope for a brighter, more prosperous future.

As if this wasn’t challenging enough: the family has been struck with further misfortune. Mariam’s Mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. With a severe lack of food, and no access to adequate medical treatment, her mother’s physical health is rapidly deteriorating. However, desperate to provide for her family, she labours on local farmlands for 10 hours per day earning a meager salary to assist with the household income.

Day in day out, the family struggle to buy food, water, clothing and medicines– daily necessities that we all need to keep as warm, safe and healthy as possible. When we spoke to Ahmad, we could see that both he and his family were heartbroken by the situation and the difficulties they’re struggling with.

However, all is not lost…


Offering hope in times of hardship

Alhamdulillah! Islamic Relief is on the ground responding to those in need.

We’ve been providing critical humanitarian aid to displaced Syrian families in Syria as well as in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey throughout the nine-year conflict. Since 2012, we’ve provided R5,8 billion in aid to support Syrians in need. In 2019 alone, because of your donations, we helped over 2.3 million people affected by the conflict.

For the month of Ramadan, Mariam and her family received a food package to help sustain the family, Alhamdulillah! We’re also working to try and ensure that Mariam’s mother receives the medical care which she so desperately needs.

Of course, none of this is possible without your help. So, from everyone at Islamic Relief, we’d like to say a massive thank you. Your generous donations are enabling us to support families like Mariam’s and millions of others whose lives have been turned upside down by the conflict in Syria.

As we prepare for the lockdown in South Africa to be scaled down to Level 3 from the 1st of June, please don’t forget those who have been living under threat of war, displacement and isolation for years. Families like Mariam’s and millions of others like them. Help us to provide them with the assistance they so critically need.

Donate to Islamic Relief and help save lives.

*All names have been changed for child-protection purposes

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