Published 25 March 2019

Entesar waited. She stood at the airport in Amman, Jordan, anticipating the sight of her husband emerging from the plane, walking toward her. He had phoned her from Reyhanlı – a city in Turkey close to the Syrian border – to let her know he would board a flight to Jordan and reunite their family.

“We kept waiting and waiting. He didn’t show up,” she explains.

Entesar asked airport officials if they had any news of her husband’s whereabouts; they had none. She contacted family and friends to see if they had any information; they didn’t. She called his phone; there was no answer. So Entesar returned to the small apartment she shared with her father, mother and children.

It was 2013, two years into the Syrian conflict. Entesar, her children and parents had fled to safety in Jordan but now faced an unimaginable tragedy. After weeks of continued calls and constant worrying, Entesar heard the news: her husband had been killed in a bombing in Reyhanlı, not long after he fled Syria.

After eight years of war in Syria, more than half of the population has been uprooted from their homes. UNHCR has been on the frontlines of the crisis since the beginning, providing vulnerable people with emergency shelter, protection and relief.

Six years ago, Entesar, 39, fled Syria with her parents and children to escape deadly airstrikes on their hometown. © UNHCR / H. Maule–ffinch

Since fleeing their hometown of Homs, Entesar’s family members have struggled to find work and earn a reliable income in Jordan. At 72 years old in declining health, her father is unable to leave the apartment, while Entesar’s 20-year-old son occasionally finds day labour or seasonal work to help make ends meet.

“As a mother and a daughter, the biggest challenge for me is taking care of our expenses,” she says, “to be able to meet my family’s needs and help them live with contentment.”

Each month, two things help Entesar’s family keep going: their undeniable closeness, and UNHCR’s cash assistance program.

“Soon after my husband passed away, I told UNHCR about my situation. UNHCR immediately assisted me,” she explains. “I rely on cash assistance. It is so important for us.”

Over 85 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in extreme poverty, forced to make difficult choices to survive, such as skipping meals or taking their children out of school. UNHCR’s monthly cash assistance program helps the most vulnerable families to pay for their basic needs – rent, utilities, food and healthcare.

UNHCR’s cash assistance helps Entesar provide for her family’s basic needs. © UNHCR / H. Maule–ffinch

Although there’s still uncertainty and a longing for the life they once had in Syria, small shared moments are helping Entesar’s family heal. Monthly cash assistance means they can afford their favourite meals from time to time.

“The children like mulukhiyah [a traditional stew with vegetables and chicken]. My mother and I like to cook kibbeh [a minced meat dish],” Entesar says, smiling.

“We receive people, we make food and our days are merry. You feel like you are not alone.”

But for many Syrian refugees the struggle continues. There are currently some 10,000 vulnerable families waiting to receive cash assistance. Determined to provide a better life for their families, they strive to make ends meet, but often fall short.


You can help provide a lifeline to vulnerable Syrian families
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Many Syrian families struggle to afford their children’s education. Thanks to UNHCR’s cash assistance, Waloud attends a local school where she is earning top marks. © UNHCR / H. Maule–ffinch 

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