Wednesday 20 February 2013
Conditions not improving for Syrians in LebanonSyrian refugee families living in makeshift shelters in the Bekaa Valley as winter conditions continue, Lebanon, January 2013. Photo by Raphael Thelen.
"The refugees are now coming in even greater numbers," said ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member, David Webber (UK). "These people have nothing and have been subjected to loss of family, rape, kidnap, robbery, the list goes on."
An SRT has been conducting needs assessments in the most northern part of Lebanon on the Syrian border to get an overview of the latest ever-changing situation for refugees.
Since the conflict began in Syria, this isolated area has been hosting higher concentrations of refugees than almost anywhere else in Lebanon. They have received very little humanitarian assistance from the outside and the winter has only compounded the hardships they face daily with high snowfall and subzero temperatures.
"The number of Syrians is increasing and the conditions are not getting any better," commented SRT member, Torstein Nielsen (NO).
Syrian refugee boy in northern Lebanon, February 2013.
"We met Rehab, a widow who has been living in a simple unfinished one-room building. Her husband died in Syria in the early phase of the war, nearly two years ago. The room they live in has no heating, windows nor doors and a graveled floor. Some thin blankets are the only coverage to keep the freezing wind away. She lives here with her three daughters, aged two, three and four.
"In a similar building nearby, used for sheep until recently, there are two families living together, nine people in total. They have been here for four months and have no other place to live or go, as like most Syrians here, they have no official documentation that would enable them to travel to areas with better accommodation and little or no money.
New refugees arrive
"Just next door, we also met Suhela, also a widow after her husband died during fighting in Homs a year ago. She has five children to look after, aged one, three, eight, 12 and 15.
"There are so many similar stories here and new stories come up every day as new refugees arrive."
SRT members, Torstein Nielsen (left) and David Webber (right) on an assessment trip along the Lebanon/Syria border, February 2013.
The living conditions for the refugees are terrible but the local communities are helping them as much as possible, which they are very grateful for.
"The recent influx of refugees in this area consist of very poor and elderly people; families with children and people with health problems," said a mayor of a municipality in the region that cannot be named for security reasons. "The village community does as well as they can in this difficult situation but the biggest problem here is lack of shelter and warm blankets. The number of refugees will increase in the near future with more people fleeing from Syria."
As bad as it gets
"These are some of the most damaged people I have ever come across," said SRT member, David Webber (UK) who has been on over 20 ShelterBox deployments. "Although the local communities are sharing, there is still not enough for everyone. They have a lack of food, inadequate winter clothing, little bedding and no medical facilities. They is nowhere to go. They are used to living in conditions like you and I; this is pretty much as bad as it gets. We must do all that we can to give them a little hope."
"'It is difficult to think of another place where the need for help is greater than in this area,"said Nielsen.