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20 kilometres from the Syrian border, Eoghan Rice meets Hoda, a mother of three young children who has been forced to flee her home in Syria, and seek refuge in east Lebanon.
Using the night as cover, Hoda put her three young children into the car and left her home and everything she knew behind.
Life had become increasingly dangerous in her village in Syria, but when a rocket attack destroyed her neighbour’s house she knew that she could not risk staying any longer.
“There were many people in my neighbourhood killed, especially young people,” she says. “Fourteen families were killed at once when their building was hit by rockets. I was in my house when a rocket hit. Our neighbour’s house was completely destroyed and ours was very badly damaged. I was so afraid. I had to run out of the house. At 5am that morning I left with my children.”
Caption: Hoda with her one year old son, Bilal.
Three months after fleeing Syria, ‘home’ for Hoda and her children is construction site in Taalabaya, 20 kilometres from the Syrian border. Along with approximately 120 other people, Hoda and her young children – Bilal (1), Mohamad (6) and Sora (5) – shelter in the shell of a half-built five storey apartment block. Building materials are scattered around like toys; large holes in the walls offer no safety against the drop to the earth below.
“We found this building and decided to shelter here,” she says. “The man who owns it knows we are here but he doesn’t charge us anything. Some Lebanese families gave us blankets and mattresses because it was winter when we arrived and it was very cold.
“This building is not safe, especially for the children. There is no electricity and no walls to stop them falling off the building. Two weeks ago we found a snake.”
Caption: The half-finished apartment block close to the Lebanon-Syria border which is now home to 51 Syrian families who have fled the war.
For Hoda and her children, life is almost unrecognisable to what it was just a few short months ago. The children ask after their father, who remains trapped in Syria. Hoda speaks to him every few weeks but says she does not know how safe he is.
Her biggest challenge now is to provide food for three hungry children who miss their home. Trócaire, through Caritas Lebanon, has helped to provide them with food, water and medical care, but as the numbers of Syrian refugees grows every day, so to do the needs.
There are now well over 500,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a small country of just 4 million people. The Caritas medical centre close to where Hoda now lives reports 50-100 new families needing its services every day.
“We had a very good life before the war but now everything has changed,” she says. “There is no work here so we can’t earn money to buy food. We eat once or maybe twice a day, mostly just bread and oil.”
Asked what she wants more than anything, Hoda’s answer is simple: “We want to go home.”
Almost six million Syrians – more than the entire population of the island of Ireland – have been forced to flee their homes.
Please give whatever you can to our Syria Emergency Appeal