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ShelterBox is sending more winterised aid to Lebanon as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announces that one of five people now living there are refugees who have fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria, a worrying figure ahead of what the UN fears will be the region’s harshest winter in a century.
The official figure from UNHCR of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon is 838,000, but many more are not registered. Some estimates are up to 1.5 million. Either way, Lebanon is hosting the most refugees out of all of Syria’s bordering nations and is also the smallest. Tensions are rising and resources are being stretched.
Wissam Tariff is the Chairman of Insan, a Lebanese non-governmental organisation that focuses on bringing shelter and food items to Syrian refugees. Insan is also one of ShelterBox’s implementing partners that has been distributing its disaster relief tents and other vital aid to the refugee community over the past year.
Cold months pose new challenges
In an interview with Wissam a few weeks ago in Beirut before the first winter storm hit, he tells ShelterBox that the coming cold months pose new challenges to the humanitarian sector helping Syrian refugees:
‘There are no official refugee camps in Lebanon, instead there are hundreds of informal tented settlements, which we call reception centres, dispersed throughout the country, particularly in the Bekaa Valley, which has the highest concentration of Syrian refugees.
‘During the first wave of refugees, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese families opened their doors to Syrians fleeing the conflict to help them. Now in the third year, the host community is tired and there are many more reception centres that have appeared throughout Lebanon’s landscape creating tensions with local communities.
‘Resources are being stretched. There’s more rubbish to collect, less water and electricity to share and less jobs. Now winter is coming, there’ll be snow in the mountains in the Bekaa Valley, subzero temperatures and flooding. We lack tents, fuel, stoves, blankets, medical care and resources.
‘With the news saying this winter is going to be the harshest in over 100 years, our aid work here will be very challenging. We will have to be more innovative and operative to avoid a real catastrophe.’
ShelterBox has sent hundreds of more winterised tents, blankets and solar lamps to be distributed amongst the implementing partner network, including through Wissam, bringing shelter, warmth and safety to many Syrian families, like Abo Mohammad with his wife and three children.
Frightened above the limits in their hometown of Damascus in Syria from the bombs and rockets falling in front of them, the Mohammad family fled to Lebanon seeking safety:
‘Tent protected me’
‘It was very hard when we arrived here, then we met Mohammad [another ShelterBox implementing partner] who gave us this tent… It is excellent and has protected me and my family from the dust, sun, rain, dirt, heat and cold. It is sheltering us.’
Thanks to your generous support we have been able to bring shelter and other essential aid to over 1,400 Syrian families in Lebanon, and now continue to deliver more winterised aid to the refugee communities most in need.