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From bullets to the breadline

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A man stands beside a concrete building

When stepping out of his front door meant facing a storm of gunfire, Marwan knew he had to leave.

“The bullets were coming from everywhere. When I went to the roof to check the water tank, they would shoot. If you walked in the street they would shoot.

“Everyone was shooting, so we had to run away. We didn’t want to leave our lives, and have our homes taken over by strangers. But we made it out, thanks be to God.”

Living in a shell

Marwan and his family found a place to rent in a small village in northern Lebanon. The unfinished building is far from homely. There are rooms, but no plaster on the walls. There are no doors, no floors and the kitchen barely exists.

Marwan’s family are paying $500 – just over £300 – a month for this place. It was intended as a holiday home, but now that the landlord is getting rent, he has no incentive to finish it.

Marwan is one of more than one million refugees living in Lebanon. Tough doesn’t begin to describe life here – there are no official refugee camps and the adults do not have the right to work.

If Marwan doesn’t find $500 by next week he will have to move his family.

The worst thing

He’s not used to living like this. He used to own a business, a house and a car. Now he sits on a plastic chair in this shell of a house, wearing sandals and a tracksuit and a defeated expression.

“As a father the worst thing is that I can no longer provide for my family. We used to have days out, and go for picnics. Now we can barely eat.”

The refugees here rely on charities to get by. The Lebanese Red Cross, a partner of the British Red Cross, is giving Marwan and others cash so they can choose to buy what they most need: food, clothes or rent.

Marwan says: “We cannot be proud. I can’t buy clothes for my children. People look at us and can see we are in a bad situation because we cannot dress the children well or send them to school.”

The pressure is building

Marwan is in limbo, dwelling on the past and unsure what lies ahead.

“Before we had money, and services. We had cars; everything was better. I keep asking myself – why did this happen, why has this happened to us? I go over it in my mind and the pressure builds on me.

“We have heard now that our house is destroyed, the whole area has gone. We don’t know if we’ll ever go back.”

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