Action Against Hunger responds to Syrian refugee crisis

Syrian families facing fourth bitter winter in camps

Winter is the worst period for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, some of whom have been living in perilous conditions in camps for years

By Action Against Hunger

Dec 9 2015

“If we work we eat, if we don’t work, we don’t eat - it’s as simple as that,” says Abu Talal, a Syrian refugee living in a camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

This winter will be the fourth Abu Talal (pictured below) and his family have spent in Lebanon. Originally from the city of Raqqa in Syria, they fled the war in 2012, but their living conditions have become more precarious.

“Last year, winter was extremely difficult, there were snowstorms and floods and we didn’t have fuel for heating,” Mr Talal explains.

Mr Talal and his wife have collected as much wood as possible for fuel and packed it in small bags next to their shelter. Many households aren’t that prepared. “As the years pass, people have spent all their money.”

Helping families through the harsh winter

Storms left thousands of families in horrendous conditions last winter, causing hundreds of casualties. To avoid a repeat this year, we are responding to the immediate needs of families in the Bekaa valley.

“Many Syrian refugee families are at high risk because they don’t even have the basics, such as blankets and stoves, to help them cope with extreme temperatures,” says Rui Oliveira, our Country Director  in Lebanon. “In previous years, winter has caused hundreds of casualties, especially amongst children under two years old and the elderly, due to exposure to extreme temperatures. A very high number of tents have been damaged by floods or snow and our teams have carried out assessments to establish needs, such as flood defence or improvements to mitigate drainage issues in some places.”

Winter is the most difficult period for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, some of whom have been living in perilous conditions in camps for years.  Not only are the weather conditions dangerous, but a lack of jobs and additional sources of income mean that many households rely completely on humanitarian assistance. We're preparing to distribute blankets, mattresses, fuel, stoves, tent repair equipment and clothes tp help families through the harsh winter. We have also conducted an assessment of more than 370 households in various locations of North, Central and West Bekaa. “This assessment has given us a clear picture of the conditions in the camps and the level of preparation of families to face the coming winter,” says Mr Oliveira.

We have been partnering with the World Food Programme and UNICEF in Lebanon since 2006 and distribute cash assistance to tens of thousands of families in the country. The cash assistance is done through an e-card system and this winter, a new PIN code will be sent to beneficiaries, so they can draw extra money to cover unexpected expenditures. An initial group of 330 households will be able to use the new PIN code shortly.

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Top Image: Children in a camp in Lebanon. F. Seriex for Action Against Hunger