IFRC


Refugees and volunteers in Lebanon begin preparing for the cold winter ahead

Published: 3 January 2014 10:06 CET

By Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC

As winter begins to take its grip on the region, many people are desperate to have their stories told so the wider world can understand the plight of those forced from their homes in Syria by the threat of violence.

“Winter is coming and we are really scared for what could happen,” said Dia, 65, one of the women waiting at a food distribution point of the Lebanese Red Cross. We are in Saadnayel, in the Bekaa Valley, less that 40 km from the Syrian border, where many Syrians have come to escape the violence back home. “In total we are 26, between sons and nephews,” she said. “We fled because our houses in Darayya have been destroyed, most of our family members died and we were scared by the constant bombing.”

It's 10.30 in the morning and everything is ready. Two long lines, mostly women, wait for volunteers to announce the start of the main event. The expected support has arrived with white sealed packages covered with red emblems. Occasional arguments break out, but most of the women are anxious to get what they need and to tell their stories.

Samira, 36, fled with her seven sisters. They left with no money and nowhere to go – along with 800,000 other people who came to Lebanon according to the latest figures from UNHCR. “We live in a very bad situation in a one room shelter,” Samira said. “It leaks from different sides and costs 200 dollars per month. We have not been able to pay the rent for the last three months. We are receiving complaints from the owner and we don't know what to do. We are girls alone.”

In the meantime, 250 food parcels were being distributed. Each box contains enough for one family to eat for a month. Volunteers help women to carry the heavy parcels.

For Dia, the trip ‘home’ is not something to look forward to, but it’s better than being out in the open. “We are living in an abandoned plastic factory, without beds, tables, couches and even running water,” she said. “Every day it is becoming colder, near us there is a small lake and we cannot even imagine how cold it could be in the next month.”

Many of the people here have arrived in the last six months. For most, it's not the first time they have been displaced. The stories they tell are depressingly similar: families were displaced several times in Syria until they reached Lebanon, where they hope to find humanitarian protection until the security situation back home improves.

Jaidaa has three children and is deeply concerned about their education. “It has been two years since they last went to school,” she said. Her husband sometimes finds few hours of paid work which is not even enough to feed the family for one day. “Our day starts the same as it finishes: we barely talk sometimes and when the kids try to play, my husband starts shouting at them as he cannot stand the noise. We are always nervous and it's affecting our children: fear is always with us.”

The distribution is finishing as the last few parcels are handed out. However, not everyone got a parcel and volunteers begin the difficult task of explaining the reasons to those frustrated women whose names did not appear in today's distribution. “The needs are enormous, however we aim to reach the most vulnerable,” Marwan Al Awar, the Disaster Management Coordinator at the Lebanese Red Cross said.

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