Lebanon: Cooking meals for thousands of storm-affected refugees

“Knowing I contribute to put food on the table and feed the children of other refugee families makes it worth the effort I put into my cooking,” says Syrian Khitam. Together with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), she provides meals for 300 families affected by the winter storms in Lebanon.

Khitam is a 54-year-old woman from Syria and lives in one of the biggest refugee settlements in Lebanon, together with more than 1,500 refugees. She is one of seven women cooking meals that are distributed to the refugees living in this and other settlements.

This winter proved to be one of the toughest for thousands of displaced Syrians in Lebanon. Storm “Norma” and  “Miriam” caused damages to infrastructure, roads and homes across the country, putting at least 70,000 refugees at risk. Many had to evacuate to alternative locations as their tents collapsed because of the flooding. 

“I work to support myself. My situation is dire and I don’t have anyone else who can provide for me,” says Khitam.

Thanks to the generosity of our private sponsors, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) was able to provide funding to a local Lebanese organisation, Union of Relief and Development Associations (URDA), that set up a kitchen in a refugee settlement in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. URDA employs refugees to cook the food and distribute the meals to thousands of refugees living in tented settlements.

Fled from Syria six years ago

Six years ago, Khitam fled from Homs in Syria to Lebanon with her husband and children. Her husband died three years later, leaving her alone.

“My children have families and are barely able to feed their own children. I could never ask them to provide for me as well,” she says.

She is happy to be a part of the cooking group in the camp.

“Cooking food for other refugees makes me happy and the salary makes me able to support myself. It’s heavy work – we do everything from cutting chicken and boiling rice, to cleaning and preparing food boxes for over 1,000 people.”

Over 1,500 meals for 300 refugee families

In March 2019, NRC supported the preparation of over 1,500 meals for 300 refugee families, the majority of whom were evacuated from their homes after the winter storms. Some of them have still not been able to return to their homes as their tents are being rehabilitated.

Khitam and the other women receive a lot of positive feedback from people saying they’re enjoying their food.

Through the cooking, the women come together and are able to keep their mind off their current lives as refugees.

“Knowing I contribute to put food on the table and feed the children of other refugee families makes it worth the efforts I put into my cooking,” says Khitam.