One of the things Om Mohammed* (a nickname, real name is being withheld for her security) enjoys about food vouchers is that she gets to decide for herself what items to purchase when in the grocery store. Om Mohammed is a Palestinian refugee who had been living in Syria until fleeing the country in 2013, fearing for her children’s safety. She now shares an apartment in Tyr, Lebanon with her mother and her three children - two boys and a girl. Her husband was killed in the conflict, leaving her to care for her three children on her own.
Life in Tyr is safer, but caring for three children is expensive.
Although she does get a small cash allowance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and they cover her children’s school fees as well, between the costs of rent, school books, transportation to the school, and hygiene products, Om Mohammed’s savings are running out.
That’s where the food voucher program comes in. The program is run by MCC partner Popular Aid for Relief and Development, with support from MCC and funding from Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
MCC service worker Magdalene Goble stamps food vouchers for refugee and vulnerable Lebanese families in Tyr, Lebanon as part of an MCC food assistance program.
Because of the vouchers, Om Mohammed is able to purchase things like rice, yogurt, milk, cheese, and eggs, and not just the bread and cheap vegetables she was buying with the small allowance from the UNRWA before becoming part of the voucher program. Being able to buy those other items has meant her children have access to foods rich in protein and in calcium, both important nutrients, particularly for children.
In addition to Om Mohammed, the food voucher program provides support to over 5,000 Syrian refugees and Palestinian refugees from Syria, who have fled the war in their home country. Some refugees are living with host families who are poor themselves; the sudden influx of refugee families has increased living costs (especially rents) for all, and increased competition for jobs. Because of this, the program serves 400 needy people in the host community through food vouchers in an effort to relieve the burden and reduce tensions caused by the massive influx of refugees. Additionally, the program includes MCC-supported trainings in peacebuilding, disaster response, and trauma healing to help community and church leaders address conflict that can lead to violence.
Since the war began, MCC has allocated over $29.6 million to help meet needs of those in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan who have been impacted by the conflict in the region. That funding, over half of which comes from CFGB, has gone towards many projects, including support for food, shelter, peacebuilding. and trauma healing efforts. In addition, MCC is working with congregations in Canada to resettle eligible refugees from Middle Eastern countries experiencing conflict and urging lawmakers in the U.S. to work for peace. With millions of people forced from home by violence in Syria (and Iraq), MCC and our long-term partner organizations and churches are at work, helping meet urgent needs and building tools for peace and healing.
Talina Matthies is an MCC SALT participant in Beirut, Lebanon.