here, there, everywhere

Refugee Food Distribution

In At home on March 8, 2008 at 9:40 pm

When I was living in Damascus last year, some of my closest friends were Iraqi refugees.  Our view of refugees is that they are poor, uneducated, and live in tents on the outskirts of cities.  This is not what I saw as my friends lived in a decent apartment down the street from my place.  I met H. at an internet cafe when she was checking her email for pictures of her grandkids in other parts of the world.  Her husband is a retired doctor and his stories of working in the First Gulf War are crazy.  They had to pull their daughter out of university in Baghdad when her classmates were being kidnapped and killed and the situation was too dangerous to let her keep going.  They are all highly educated and speak English fluently.  Yet they have run out of their savings and now have to depend on the U.N. for food rations.  Here is H.’s account of how they got their food last month:

On the twenty seventh of last month was our turn to receive our share of food.  We got up very early in the morning and went to the president`s bridge and yet when we got there we got the number 240 in line so you can imagine the number of people.  Because I stood in the women`s line I got a number earlier than if we waited for my husband to reach the gate.  At first we were seated in a big tent, where lines of seats were provided.  20 people were called every time, to another tent.  When our turn came we went yet to another tent where the first number was taken from us and we were given another one.  50 people were called this time and we had to go to yet another tent ( it was exactly like playing musical chairs ).  This time we were called into a building where my husband got a card for food distribution.  Now the fourth tent, we gave our name and waited to be called.  A car driver was called for each family who would come with each person to yet another tent to receive the food ( Have you been counting the tents? ) I had to leave my husband go back home by bus because there was no place for me near the driver.  I could have sat in the open rear with the food ( I think I would have looked ridiculous ).  The food does help a lot ( rice, sugar, tea, two kinds of grains, tomato paste, spaghetti, cleaning detergent and sponge beds with light blankets ) we were given three amounts.  They say this amount will be given every two months.

As I write this I can look out my window down the street to the corner market where I buy my food, whatever I want whenever I want.  The only line I stand in consists of the three people in front of me who pay with cash and not food stamps.  I’ll get my paycheque this coming Friday so if I’m low on cash I know the next supply is not far away.  I might not be rich in cash, but I am rich in the ease of my life.

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  1. Nice post Alison. That’s so the way I feel about my experience here after being in Ghana. You nailed it.

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