A ‘winterization’ programme targets Syrian refugees caught in the clutches of brutal weather in Lebanon

 

A ‘winterization’ programme targets Syrian refugees caught in the clutches of brutal weather in Lebanon

BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON/ HONG KONG, 21 December 2012 – In Dalhamieh, a small village in the Bekaa Valley, Syrian refugees are streaming into an informal camp, where their makeshift tents multiply daily. As of 19 December, this informal camp had sheltered about 698 refugees, of whom 86 were children under 2 years old.

People living here, or, rather, surviving here, have crossed the Lebanese border with almost nothing and are now facing winter, during which temperatures often dip below 0⁰ C and snow falls regularly.

The day before, pouring rain had infiltrated the tents and made difficult living conditions worse. Made of cardboard boxes, plastic and stones, these shelters scarcely resist the difficult climate. Children walk with plastic bags rolled around their shoes to protect them from being ruined as they plunge their legs into the mud.

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Facing extreme weather

By 19 December 2012, UNHCR had estimated the number of Syrian refugees registered or waiting registration in Lebanon to be more than 163,000.

The real numbers are, however, believed to be substantially higher, as many Syrians have chosen not to register for security and other reasons, thus making Lebanon one of the countries receiving the highest number of Syrian refugees in the region.

Approximately 35,000 displaced Syrian children aged 0 to 14 are now located in the North and Bekaa regions of Lebanon, areas facing extreme winter weather conditions. Last week, about 270 Syrian refugees sheltering in Lebanon were hospitalized, highlighting the desperate and precarious living conditions faced by many Syrian refugee families. A key priority for UNICEF, as winter approaches, is keeping these children warm, safe and healthy.

Making do

Twelve-year-old Yahya* and his family have sought refuge in this camp since September 2012. They have no blankets and are fighting the cold with only a chimney originally made to burn wood. Yahya’s family burn plastic found in garbage heaps or on the road. They do not have money to purchase firewood.

“We have no heating. People want to stay warm, and they cannot. We just need blankets to stay warm; we don’t have any,” he says. Yahya wears the only clothes with which he arrived in Lebanon. They are insufficient to confront the cold weather and the rain.

Hanan and her family lack basic hygiene and sanitation facilities. Toilets are rudimentary, often consisting in a simple hole in the ground.

Lina’s latrine has flooded, turning her living quarters into an open sewer. “It floods! When it rains, water gets in and it floods and everything comes up. So we have to dig another hole. What can we do?” she asks.

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Risking falling ill

With latrines flooding, germs roaming free and an inability to maintain adequate hygiene and sanitation, this camp is at great risk of waterborne diseases, such as Hepatitis A and cholera.

Further along in the Bekaa Valley, in the small village of Adous, Abood Mustafa, a Lebanese resident, says that hospital admissions are on the rise and fears that they will only increase during the winter months. “We’re trying to help, we cut some wood, and we’re trying to make things work…There are still people without water tanks, water filters, blankets, or mattresses. People who crossed the frontiers into Lebanon arrive with absolutely nothing,” he says.

Reaching families at risk

UNICEF, along with its partners, is rolling out a winterization programme in Lebanon to provide refugees in Akkar, North Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley with winterization kits. UNICEF is beginning to provide Syrian refugee children with winter clothes. The organization is targeting 30,000 children, half of them to receive kits including shoes, socks, trousers, a jacket, a cap, gloves and tights and the other half to receive vouchers to buy clothes in a nearby market.

Syrian refugees will be also provided with blankets, plastic sheets, family hygiene and baby kits. Distribution of medication and nutrition supplies is also being planned.

On 15 January, a girl (whose face was painted during a child-friendly activity) unpacks items from a box during a winter clothing distribution for Syrian refugee children, at the offices of a UNICEF partner NGO in the town of Baalbek in the eastern Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border. On 14–15 January 2013 in Lebanon, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow met with Syrian refugees in the northern Wadi Khaled region and the Bekaa Valley. As part of her mission, she also appealed for increased international support to respond to the escalating crisis. Inside Syria, some 4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 1.8 million children. Over 623,000 Syrians have fled the violence, seeking refuge in neighbouring Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and as far away as Egypt. Lebanon is currently hosting the largest number of refugees, with over 200,000 people – approximately half of whom are children – registered or awaiting registration with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Worsening winter conditions are exacerbating the struggles of refugee children and their families; most live in makeshift shelters and tents or with host families who are already among the poorest in the country. UNICEF and partners are supporting the ongoing provision of winter supplies through: the implementation of a voucher system to enable families to purchase these supplies; the preparation of 11,000 winter clothing kits for distribution, with an additional 4,000 forthcoming; and the distribution of 9,000 plastic sheets and 10,000 blankets to partners. In total, UNICEF aims to reach 33,000 children with non-food items related to winter. Ms. Farrow spoke with refugees and host families and visited UNICEF-supported child-friendly spaces; these spaces provide psychosocial assistance, including counselling, for children traumatized by their experiences in relation to the conflict. UNICEF also supports initiatives in health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and child protection – responses that cover host families as well. Working with diverse governments, other United Nations organizations and local and international NGOs, UNICEF has appealed for a total of approximately US $200 million to cover response to the crisis within Syria and all host countries in the first six months of this year.

According to Supply and Logistic Specialist at UNICEF in Lebanon Olivier Mulet, time is a challenge because the situation of refugees is worsening every day: “This is why we looked at the local market availability and utilized the voucher system, which allows a very quick response.”

Many Syrian refugee children are overwhelmed, as they have never imagined being caught in such a situation. “We fled the violence in Syria with almost nothing. We did not have time to pack, and some among us had already lost everything with the bombing of their house. In addition, the weather there was extremely warm when we left, and no one was thinking about a potential long-term exile requiring clothes for the next seasons,” says 10-year-old Samir.

* Names have been changed to protect children’s identities.

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Both bundled in winter clothing, a girl holds an infant, in Za’atari, a camp for Syrian refugees on the outskirts of Mafraq, capital of the northern Mafraq Governorate. The camp is currently hosting 66,394 people. On 20 December 2012 in Jordan, worsening winter conditions continue to threaten Syrian refugee children and their families. To date, 106,724 refugees from Syria’s still escalating war have registered in Jordan with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees; an additional 41,868 are awaiting registration. Syrians have also fled to neighbouring Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, and as far away as Egypt, bringing the total number of registered refugees to 450,191. Inside Syria, some 2.5 million people have been affected by the conflict, of which 1.1 million are children. In Jordan, where the number of refugees continues to increase, UNICEF and partners are supporting the ongoing provision of winter supplies. In the Za’atari camp as well as in the King Abdullah Park and Cyber City transit sites for refugees, some 3,000 winter clothing kits for infants under age 1 are being distributed. Over 3,100 additional kits are also being procured for new arrivals during the winter. Additional support includes the ongoing installation of gas boilers to provide hot water in Za’atari’s 90 existing water, sanitation and hygiene units and the construction of 192 fully winterized units in new areas of the camp. UNICEF also supports initiatives in health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and child protection, including the provision of child-friendly spaces and psychosocial assistance for children traumatized by their experiences in relation to the conflict. Working with diverse governments, other United Nations organizations and local and international NGOs, UNICEF continues to respond to the needs of affected children in all host countries and inside Syria. To continue these responses over the first six months of 2013, UNICEF requires US$180 million. A boy stands, bundled in winter clothing, in Za’atari, a camp for Syrian refugees on the outskirts of Mafraq, capital of the northern Mafraq Governorate. The camp is currently hosting 66,394 people. On 20 December 2012 in Jordan, worsening winter conditions continue to threaten Syrian refugee children and their families. To date, 106,724 refugees from Syria’s still escalating war have registered in Jordan with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees; an additional 41,868 are awaiting registration. Syrians have also fled to neighbouring Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, and as far away as Egypt, bringing the total number of registered refugees to 450,191. Inside Syria, some 2.5 million people have been affected by the conflict, of which 1.1 million are children. In Jordan, where the number of refugees continues to increase, UNICEF and partners are supporting the ongoing provision of winter supplies. In the Za’atari camp as well as in the King Abdullah Park and Cyber City transit sites for refugees, some 3,000 winter clothing kits for infants under age 1 are being distributed. Over 3,100 additional kits are also being procured for new arrivals during the winter. Additional support includes the ongoing installation of gas boilers to provide hot water in Za’atari’s 90 existing water, sanitation and hygiene units and the construction of 192 fully winterized units in new areas of the camp. UNICEF also supports initiatives in health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and child protection, including the provision of child-friendly spaces and psychosocial assistance for children traumatized by their experiences in relation to the conflict. Working with diverse governments, other United Nations organizations and local and international NGOs, UNICEF continues to respond to the needs of affected children in all host countries and inside Syria. To continue these responses over the first six months of 2013, UNICEF requires US$180 million. An infant sleeps under a blanket in a baby-friendly hospital in the port city of Latakia in the western Latakia Governorate. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), a global campaign led by the World Health Organization and UNICEF and endorsed by world leaders and health experts, encourages hospitals and health workers to support mothers' efforts to breastfeed. In April 2006, the Syrian Arab Republic has made considerable progress towards improving the situation of children and women and is on track to achieve almost all Millennium Development Goals. The country has high immunization coverage rates; infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates have declined; overall primary-school enrolment rates are above 90 per cent; and HIV/AIDS prevalence is low. Nevertheless challenges remain, including for refugees, children with disabilities and children in conflict with the law. Due to long working hours, tens of thousands of children nationwide are not in school. Gender and geographic disparities persist, including in education, and are wider in the five northern and north-eastern governorates, home to half of Syria's 18.6 million inhabitants. Political instability in the region, high unemployment and other economic factors also affect the country's overall development. UNICEF supports health, education, water and sanitation and child protection initiatives, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programmes for adolescents and young people, and educational projects for children with special needs. UNICEF is also supporting policy and legislative initiatives to protect and promote children's rights.
HK$194
for warm winter clothing for
a 3-month-old child
HK$438
for 1 winter clothing kit
HK$826
for 15 baby blankets

 

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