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Latifa Mohamed Mheiemed (33) A mother of 7 children (Originally from Homs, Syria, now in Mafraq, Jordan)

LATIFA MOHAMED MHEIEMED (33) A mother of 7 childern

Latifa fled to Jordan with her 7 children crossing the borders after heavy shelling hit their area and her 15 year old daughter Jasmine become physically paralysed with shock. They left home in search of a safe hospital with only the clothes on their back. With winter approaching they have little to keep the family warm – ActionAid has supported Latifa through its Community Based Social Protection project.

Things have changed dramatically from when Latifa and her family lived back in Syria Latifa’s husband used to earn between 75-300 JOD per day. Latifa said: “We were happy. We had a 2 floor house and a farm around with cows and other animals. My husband worked with his own removal company and was earning good money”.

When Latifa heard the houses being bombed around them they decided to leave their house, walking 2 miles to Laitfa’s parent house. On the way, Latifa and her children were traumatized by the amount of blood they saw, walking over dead bodies to reach the safety of her mother’s home.

But the safety they hoped for wasn’t to last, and soon after the fighting crept towards them and they fled again. They had to move on from safety several times until eventually they took shelter in a school where they stayed for only 15 days. The school was bombed and Laitfa’s older daughter Jasmine was physically paralyzed, not by physical harm, but by shock, Latifa couldn’t take her daughter to a hospital in Syria because was not safe, so she took her to Jordan in January 2013, initially living out of a tent in the midst of winter.

Latifa now lives with her husband and 7 children in a 2 bedroom apartment in Mafraq, Jordan that has just 2 bedrooms. There is little in the home, just a couple of mattresses and small television in the corner of the room. Latifa’s husband works a 12 hour shift on a farm earning 5 JD per-day. He does not have a full time contract and works irregular hours meaning that there is no stable source of income for the family.

Latifa and her family have to survive with UNCHR food coupons sometimes Latifa sells half of the coupon because she needs to pay the house rental, it has been 3 month since Latifa paid the rent and she is in debt by over 450 JOD. ($700)  The family has only one blanket which they all sleep under and the children are getting sick due to the cold weather.

ActionAid has been working with the community, with Community groups in Mafraq led by women, who lead the process of identifying and distributing coupons for heaters, blankets and other non-food items that are essential to survival in winter. The most vulnerable families are identified by the women who meet ‘points based criteria. Single women, those living with a person with disability, those with limited income etc,all contribute to points for vulnerability. In a patriarchal, male dominated society, it is essential that women lead the process of supporting the community as it is women’s needs that are so often sidelined, especially in a context of protracted crises.

Latifa got a call from ActionAid community center in Mafraq to receive a heater and 2 gas cylinders. She said: “It gets very cold especially at night. We don’t have enough blankets so we all sleep under the same one”

The heater will go some way towards helping her family stay healthy, but Latifa still has many more concerns Latifa is worried about, how she will pay the rent and children’s education. Most children in Jordan go to school for just half a day as Jordan has been overwhelmed with refugees and operates a split shift system.

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