“Heavy is the Weight”

Cash assistance for vulnerable families to meet basic needs

“If I don’t find work, we don’t eat”, says Hayat.

With the compounding crisis in Lebanon still ongoing, female-headed households are among the most affected, as they must balance domestic and childcare responsibilities while also being the primary breadwinner. “The depreciation of the Lebanese Pound (LBP), which lost 90 percent of its value between 2019 and June 2021, surging inflation with an increase of 340 per cent on the price of the basic food basket, and subsidies cuts on basic items such as food and fuel, have severely declined people’s purchasing power, especially those receiving their salaries in Lebanese pounds” (LCRP, p.100)

In the year since the Beirut port blast, the economic, political, and social crises have intensified. As time has passed, Medair in Lebanon has continued to adapt its response to meet the evolving needs of the communities it serves. From the immediate distributions of emergency shelter kits to larger scale home rehabilitations and critical Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services throughout, Medair has   met the needs of the community.  As the crises worsened, Medair also responded to a growing request for financial assistance for food, rent, medicines and other basic needs and services. This response was based on feedback collected from field interactions, community leaders, and focus group discussions with community members. Providing four monthly distributions of cash to cover essential expenses, Medair reached 331 of the most vulnerable households in the affected communities. This financial support complements shelter, MHPSS activities filling critical gaps. This is done in a manner conveying dignity and agency to individuals who decide how to use the funds to best meet their own needs.

Hayat, 50 years old, is a Lebanese community member living in the neighbourhood of Bachoura, Beirut. She married at a very early age and has been living in Bachoura for the past 30 years. Now a single mother, she is raising three children on her own. She scored among the most vulnerable households assessed as part of Medair’s Multi-purpose Cash Assistance (MPCA) project. Hayat told us about the hardships and struggles she faces with her family during these challenging circumstances, and how crucial it was for her to receive cash support.

“I honestly do not know where to start telling you my story”, says Hayat, as she sat down on her couch. She took a deep breath and continued, “I am a fifty-year-old divorced woman living with her mother, raising three kids on my own in the face of what I can only describe as a very unfortunate situation in Lebanon. There is no one to support us. We are on our own. I am the only income provider in this household. Unfortunately, I can only work on a day-to-day basis cleaning houses and doing chores for others, with no steady income. Heavy is the weight that I hold. If I don’t find work, we don’t eat.”

With our current situation, I can only provide two meals per day. First meal of the day is usually a sandwich to curb my kids’ appetite and then we wait until the evening for a warm meal. Prior to receiving cash support, I couldn’t properly afford any kind of protein, like chicken. With the hyperinflation and devaluation of the Lebanese Pound, it is impossible. Only after receiving cash support, I could afford protein in small quantities, and feed my children properly. I fear for their health. I am aware they are not getting safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for a healthy life. Even for me, I am aware I am not. But I see myself as less of a priority. My mother taught me to be strong. So, I tell myself I am strong. It’s hard to see her ill. She is such a tough woman. With her condition now, she requires around eleven medications a day. Most medications are sparsely available and honestly unaffordable. My youngest one, bless his heart, also has asthma, and requires an inhaler regularly. We are on the edge and we’re falling apart.”

After taking a moment to collect herself, Hayat continued, “For the last four months, we’ve been receiving cash support. I cannot tell you what it meant to me and my family. Knowing there was a steady income, at least in the short term, I could afford the most basic things, like food and medications for my family, without worrying. It simply allowed me to focus on my kids and make sure they had what they need. You won’t believe me if I tell you; I was in tears and on my knees in prayer when I received the call from Medair telling me I was eligible for cash assistance. God does not forget the innocent abandoned. It helped us immensely and there are no words to describe the feeling. Many families like mine are desperately in need of help in these difficult circumstances. I hope my voice reaches many.”

Over the last years, providing cash assistance in the humanitarian sector has increased. Recognized internationally, cash assistance is recognized as an effective way to meet people’s needs, allowing individuals and families autonomy. Where appropriate, Medair has integrated this approach in its programming in several countries around the world. Cash initiatives, given available resources in the country, can aid in stimulating the affected community’s economy and help give people an opportunity to recover and and focusing on the needs of their families.

Medair services in Beirut are funded by Swiss Solidarity (Chaine du Boneheur (CdB) and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.