Annual report 2019-20Read now
As the world focuses on the birth of the royal baby in England, expectant mothers living through war wonder what type of world their children will be born into.
Seven months pregnant and living in a tiny room with 20 other Syrian refugees, Amena says that the joy she feels about giving birth to a new child is tinged with fears over how she will be able to feed it.
“Of course I will be happy when my child is born but I feel more worry than joy,” she says. “I do not know how I will be able to feed or protect this child. Where will we live? I am very worried about the future.”
Caption: Amena (21), who is seven months pregnant and lives in a tiny two-room apartment in Beirut with 20 other Syrian refugees.
It is easy to see why Amena has such concerns. Along with her husband, Zacaria, and their 20-month-old baby Sham, Amena lives with three other families in a tiny room in Beirut, Lebanon.
There are 21 people living in a space that could comfortably home no more than a handful. All refugees from Syria’s brutal war, they live together because it is the only way they can afford to have a roof over their heads.
“It is very difficult for us here,” says Amena. “We have had no running water for five days. We live on top of each other. There is no space for the children and no privacy at all.”
These conditions are a far cry from how they lived in Syria. Zacaria worked as a pastry chef and the young family lived a happy and peaceful life in the suburbs of Aleppo, but as the war intensified they made the painful decision to flee their home for the sake of their lives.
“We lived in the crossfire,” she explains. “When planes started bombing our neighbourhood we decided we had to get out. We left everything behind. It was just too dangerous.”
Zacaria looks for work in Beirut but it is difficult to find. There were already many Lebanese people without work before over 600,000 Syrian refugees arrived in desperate need of money.
Caption: Syrian refugee children at a half-built apartment block near Reyfoun, close to the border with Syria. Their families fled Syria due to the war and are now living on a building site.
Through Caritas, Trócaire has helped to provide Amena, Zacaria, Sham and the other families living in the room with food, blankets, mattresses, nappies and other aid, but so much more is needed.
For people like Amena, the most painful thing is not knowing when, or even if, they will ever be able to restart their lives.
As the war rages on, life for Syrian refugees is on hold. Children are not in school, parents are not in work. Life is about nothing but survival.
“We want to go home,” she says. “When the war ends, we will be in Syria within the hour. We left the key to our house with a friend. We spoke to him recently and he said that there is no food left in the neighbourhood. People are eating grass to survive.”
Soon, Amena will have a new child. What type of life she can provide for her new baby, she does not know.