Winter Storm in Lebanon, Jordan: Concern for Syria refugees paramount, says CARE
Syrian refugees, fleeing violence in their homeland, have found their situation exacerbated following the onslaught of winter storm “Huda,” also referred to as “Zeina.”
With temperatures falling below freezing, dark clouds gathered over Lebanon and Jordan Wednesday, carrying heavy winds with driving rain and hail. Snow fell in mountainous areas of Lebanon, and covered Amman and other cities in northern Jordan.
“For refugees already living in very precarious circumstances, this is yet another blow,” said Gareth Richards, CARE Country Director in Lebanon. “Millions have fled from the conflict, with few if any belongings, and now they must face the biting cold of winter. It only compounds already unbearable circumstances. There are reports today of two children in Bekaa valley having died from the cold, and three more children in Qalamoun in the north.”
While news reports speak of the high public demand for food and fuel, many refugees CARE staff spoke with did not have the financial means to stockpile goods in anticipation of the storm.
“It’s not a lack of preparation,” said Mr. Richards. “Families simply don’t have the cash necessary to purchase fuel, or repair their shelters or severely substandard housing. They need more assistance, but this crisis response is severely underfunded.”
In December, the UN launched an appeal for an estimated 8.4 billion dollars for the combined humanitarian response in 2015. The 2014 appeal faced a 46% funding shortfall. Aid agencies continue to rally the international community for more funding.
More than 3.4 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries, with the largest numbers in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. More than one third of the Syrian population has been displaced by the conflict. The Syria crisis has been described as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the last thirty years.
Many refugees have found shelter in tents, unfinished buildings, and sheds, leaving them particularly vulnerable to winter weather. CARE’s teams across the region have been able to help many, but funding is desperately needed to help many more.
Ayesha is a single mother of five, and a Syrian refugee. She and her children live in a single room in north Lebanon. “The water is dripping on us from the ceiling. Our windows have no glass, water is flowing inside the room.” Ayesha is the sole provider for her family, and like many refugees, struggles for any income. ”It is very cold here and we have no heater to turn on. All we have is each other.“
Mohammad Sami occupies a single room with his wife and five children, also in north Lebanon. They have no heat and without work or income, Mohammed has been unable to purchase a carpet or mattresses for the family. His family of seven shares two small mattresses. ”I just wish I had a heater for my children,” Mohammed said. “We are all sharing the two mattresses, sitting very close together to keep one another warm.“
Mousa, who lives with his family in Irbid, Jordan, used a piece of scrap metal to cover a broken window, protecting the family from the rain and snow. They have relied upon the generosity of neighbors who lent them a gas heater. He has already lost one child. “I need to protect the rest of my children, so we are ten people squatting around the heater.”
Other refugees, like Rafiq, have relied on firewood to keep them warm. But in the wet and cold, his family of six, who are living in an old warehouse, do not have sufficient wood. “I really just want to keep my family warm but as it is raining so heavily, all the wood is wet and I cannot use it for the heater.”
CARE staff in Lebanon are doing a rapid assessment in north Lebanon and Chouf, as they prepare an emergency request for additional funds. In the interim, an emergency cash fund will be made available for immediate assistance for those most affected by the storm – for blankets, clothing, repairs to stoves and substandard housing.About CARE:
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. To learn more, visit www.care.org.
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