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Mohammad roams the streets of the Beqqa Valley in Lebanon selling tomatoes and cucumbers from his car. "I work, but I don't get far", he says.
A Lebanese father of a one-and-a-half-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl, Mohammad has to provide not only for his family, but also for his three sisters. “One of my sisters got sick and her illness really affected us,” he adds.
Treatment for his sister is very expensive and the other sisters have to constantly take care of her. Mohammad’s daughter used to attend school but he is now unable to cover her tuition. “We don’t have anything [...] I am on my own running around to provide for the kids and to try and get by,” he says. Mohammad and his family don’t have social security.
Mahmoud is another Lebanese man living in the Beqqa Valley. He owns a little shop where Mohammad goes to buy some food every 15 or 16 of the month. That is when an e-card distributed to 39,000 of the poorest Lebanese families and 36,000 Syrians is recharged to cover food and non-food needs such as shelters to live in dignity.
The rechargeable e-card is part of an EU Trust Fund supported programme implemented by the World Food Programme with the Ministry of Social Affairs of Lebanon. This "Safety Net" is one of the EU-supported programmes that benefit both refugees and vulnerable local communities.
The amount received every month depends on how many members a family or household is composed of. Beneficiaries of WPF’s cash assistance can purchase food products with the card, but they have to buy other items with their own resources.
Mohammad says that the cash assistance gives him and his family a little push and a chance to afford something to eat. “At least now we can stand a bit on our feet,” he says.
On top of helping vulnerable families, the programme injects cash into the local economy.
The programme “creates job opportunities and contributes to the sustainability of the region. This programme is needed on the long term,” Mahmoud the shop owner says.
And the cash assistance had already an effect on Mahmoud's business. Since being part of the programme, his sales increased about 50-60%. "I decided to be part of it after some research on how to expand my business. I found that it was a good opportunity," Mahmoud says.
When Mohammad comes to his shop once a month, Mahmoud says that "we offer the best service we can, from delivery to giving discounts so he can get by.” He recognises that Mohammad comes from one of the poorest families in the city and the programme created "a stronger solidarity between people", as he puts it.
With the Syrian crisis in its ninth year, the EU is committed to continue its support to Syrians and partner countries in the region. Lebanon currently hosts 1.5 million refugees, the world's highest per capita refugee presence. Overall, the EU has mobilised €1.7 billion in assistance to Lebanon since 2011.
Through the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis, the EU has allocated so far more than €560 million in support for refugees and host communities, to over 27 projects focusing on education, livelihood, local development, health and protection, socio-economic support as well as water and waste water infrastructure.