Preparing for a third winter in Lebanon after fleeing violence in Syria

Published: 10 October 2014 10:12 CET

By Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC

One family in one room. In average between five and eight people in a temporary shelter, usually in the middle of agricultural camps or, even worse, in the mountains. This is the situation in Lebanon for thousands of Syrians who fled the conflict in their own country.

As winter begins to take its grip on the region, many are desperate to have their stories told so the wider world can understand their plight.

“This is the third winter I will spend in Lebanon,” said Khalil, who lives with his family in Ketermaya, Chouf. “Sometimes I find work, but most of the year I am jobless, walking around thinking about my life and what has happened to my family. I’m trying to figure out how to stop the water leaking into our shelter.” He said winter would bring heavy rain, wind and – most likely – mud and water into his home. “I live here with my wife and six kids. If it wasn’t for the farmers, I would be praying that rain wouldn’t fall this year. I have to find a way to protect the children from the cold,” he said.

More than 50 families live in Ketermaya, and Khalil’s experience is not unique. Rana, who lives with her four children, said it was almost impossible to be properly prepared for the winter ahead. “We don’t have blankets, clothes, stoves. We don’t even have something to burn anymore. In few weeks it could become really a nightmare for us,” she said.

While shelter is an obvious priority for all families in the camp, the cold weather has effects beyond the thin walls of the shelters. Warda, who is 9 years old, said she wanted to be able to play and to learn. “When winter is here, water and mud are everywhere and there is nowhere to play. My dream is to return in Syria, see my friends and go back to school, without wounded and dead people everywhere,” she said. “I would like to have winter clothes to stay warm.”

In Ketermaya, as in many other places where Syrian families are left exposed to the elements, winter will bring new challenges, new problems and hardship.