Worst Winter Storm in 20 years Hits Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugee families are living in makeshift shelters in the Bekaa Valley as winter conditions continue, Lebanon, January 2013. Photo by Raphael Thelen.
Syrian refugee families are living in makeshift shelters in the Bekaa Valley as winter conditions continue, Lebanon, January 2013. Photo by Raphael Thelen.

 

Treacherous road conditions, delayed flights and closed schools. Snow and ice cold conditions have caused disruption across the UK leaving many people frustrated. However, the worst winter storm in two decades hit Syria and its neighbouring countries last week bringing destruction and threatening lives in a region already facing a refugee crisis from the country’s civil war. 

ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Fiona McElroy (UK) is part of an SRT in Lebanon currently assessing the need for emergency shelter:

‘Conditions are incredibly poor. Over the months as people have arrived, they have rented any available property in Lebanon. Standards have grown poorer and prices more expensive. As the conflict has continued, the numbers of people fleeing the war are growing. It is the people who are poorest who are now making their way across the border. Most have come with few possessions and many have just the clothes they stand up in.

‘Extreme storm’

‘Once over the mountains from the Mediterranean coast of Beirut to near the Syrian border, the temperature drops considerably in the Bekaa valley and up into the mountains. The air feels like winter, thin and sharp. This week, Lebanon has experienced an extreme storm that has brought snow to areas of Lebanon, which have never seen it before. 50 centimetres of snow fell in some places. Temperatures overnight have been falling down to -6 degrees Celcius.

‘It’s not until you look amongst the communities such as Barelias district that the truth begins to reveal itself. Local families often build their own homes a floor at a time as money allows and in some, refugees live on the unfinished floors. Also beside many, makeshift shelters have been set up by Syrian families who have nowhere else to go. When you really start to look, you can see how many there are. Syrian refugees are the hidden homeless in Lebanon.

Read more here: LEBANON

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