UNHCR Helps Syrian Refugees Amid Harsh Winter

syria winter refugees
On Tuesday night, December 10, a storm system which has come to be known as Alexa struck Lebanon. The Bekaa Valley, a region in eastern Lebanon, was most affected by the storm. Lebanon is currently the largest Syrian refugee-hosting nation in the region, with an astonishing 840,000 Syrians either refugees or in the process. Refugees in Lebanaon do not live in camps (like other nations), but rather are dispersed throughout the community. Large populations of the refugees live in makeshift tents, which is the growing concern for the UNHCR and several other humanitarian organizations.

Director of UNHCR’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau said, “For the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Lebanon, as well as those in neighboring countries and displaced in Syria, a storm like this creates immense additional hardship and suffering…with Lebanon’s help, we’re doing everything we can to get rapid additional help to people who most need it. This is on top of the winter preparations already done over the past months.” The tents, in which thousands of refugees live, are substandard and not equipped for the winter. However, Lebanon is working with international organizations to take as many preventative as well as reactionary measures as possible to assist the refugees.

In regard to the conditions, one man who arrived from Syria a year ago described how water had leaked into his tent, that it was impossible for his family to sleep, and that he feared it would get worse. “I don’t know where to go,” said the man. “I don’t know where to take my children. It’s much worse than last year, and it’s only the beginning.”

In response to Alexa, the UN Refugee agency is stepping in to protect the Syrian Refugees, including 120,000 living in inadequate makeshift tents, as they prepare for the encroaching storm. Fortunately, UNHCR and NGO partners worked with the Lebanese government and military to release first aid materials, which include wood, plastic sheets and tools to improve their shelters.

There are 125,000 refugees living in the worst hit Bekaa Valley. Officials have administered over 225,000 blankets, 6,000 stoves and 45,000 ATM cards (for families to purchase stoves and gas). Additionally, the World Food Programme and other cooperative agencies are providing food rations to the refugees in affected areas in Lebanon that will feed up to 150,000 people. The UN food agency is providing assistance to 600,000 refugees using food vouchers.

Other organizations working to aid the refugees, as they prepare for the harsh winter include: the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Organization for Migration, Oxfam, Medair, Save the Children, World Vision, Humedica, Mercy Corps, Caritas, Handicap International, Concern, Acted, Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and UNICEF.

Laura Reinacher

Sources: The Washington Post, UNHCR, Al Jazeera