"When the crisis started in Syria, we thoughts it was just a demonstration and that it would pass... We never thought it would turn out the way it did."
Maher, 49, is from Homs, Syria. With his wife and five children they left Syria when their house was destroyed by bombs and fled to neighbouring Lebanon. “I feared for our safety and the safety of our children,” he explains, “so we decided that seeking refuge in Lebanon would be the best and safest solution, so I brought them all here.” Maher’s family was well off: he used to be in construction and was able to guarantee a good life to his family, but once the war started, there was no more work.
“We do not wish for any country to know war and destruction, its people to leave or die and its homes to be destroyed,” says Maher. “We would love to go back but for the moment it’s still not safe and we are afraid to go back. I have no home, it was destroyed and there is no work in Syria. It’s better if we stay here in Lebanon, if we are still welcome and we hope to repay the favor.”
Where they live now, water is very scarce. Before ACTED’s project arrived in the region, Maher’s family had to spend roughly 100 USD a month to be able to cover their household needs. “We had to change our habits. In Syria, we had water all the time, the government provided us with water, even to drink. We never had to buy water there,” he says. Life is tougher for them now as everything is much more expensive.
Before ACTED’s rain collection system was installed, water would go to waste as there was no place to store it. By building a system to collect and store rainwater to be used not only in the winter but especially in the summer, families like Maher’s can now save money and address other household needs. “Since the system was installed,” he explains, “we didn’t have to pay anything in the winter… we never had to pay water. Now, we are buying it but the excess water can be reused as it is stored in the lower tank and pumped back so nothing goes to waste anymore, so even in the summer when it doesn’t rain, we can benefit from the water tanks. The whole building benefits from it.”
With EU support through the Trust Fund, ACTED is improving the living conditions of Syrian and local communities in Lebanon, through greater access to water, sanitation and disease-free environments. With the new rain collection system implemented by ACTED, households are now able to save the money they would spend for water, for clothing, food and other expenses.
The practice of harvesting rainwater is still quite unconventional but water scarcity in Lebanon is a major concern, for both vulnerable Lebanese and refugees in general. “Lebanon and its people,” explains Maher, “have been putting up with us even though they have their own problems. [The country] is under a lot of pressure, especially now with all the refugees: you have the Palestinian refugees and now add to the the Syrians and other people coming from abroad. I would definitely leave Lebanon if I get the opportunity to go abroad but, for now, going to Syria is not an option and there is still fear for my children and for myself, and that’s it.”