Snowstorm hits vulnerable Syrians in Lebanon

[Alt: Heavy snow storm covers Northern Lebanon. Photo taken by Hussein Aladraa.]
[Alt: Heavy snow storm covers Northern Lebanon. Photo taken by Hussein Aladraa.]

For many Syrians, this is the fourth winter seeking refuge in Lebanon's Akkar region. The arrival of a brutal snowstorm means it may also be the most difficult yet. Concern Worldwide is working with families to reinforce and stabilise shelters against extreme weather.

Extreme weather

Unrelenting snow, heavy rains and wind have battered Akkar. This area is currently a makeshift home for around half a million Syrians displaced by their country's civil war. As reports of three Syrians found frozen to death by the snow storm emerged, the vast, widely-dispersed refugee community hurried to reinforce its makeshift settlements.

Poor Shelter

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Concern Worldwide's Elke Leidel described the situation in Akkar:

"Where we work there are around 100,000 people that are taking shelter, very often under plastic sheets. We are distributing sealing-off kits, with wooden planks, tools and more plastic sheeting to help them to stabilise their shelter. Snow can collapse them at any time, and the situation is very dire."

Pressure on Lebanon

Akkar is Lebanon's poorest region. The resettlement of such a large amount of refugees has heaped pressure on the province's infrastructure. This means deteriorating conditions for those in settlements. Diminishing resources are contributing to the bleak situation for Syrians and Lebanese alike.

Response

This snowstorm's destruction underlines the vulnerability of those who have resettled in Akkar, where a majority of the refugee population is made up of women and children. Concern has been collaborating with refugees to build shelter that can weather harsh conditions. Installation of water pumps and drainage earlier this year means that minimal damage has occurred in shelters that we have helped to build in Akkar.

Attention has now turned to the distribution of materials to keep families warm through the worst of the winter. We are providing children with waterproof shoes and weather-ready clothing. We are distributing fuel to heat the shelters. The most vital work will be continuing to help Syrian refugees build adequate shelter against Akkar’s severe winters.

[alt: Children wear newly-distributed winter clothes, 13th January 2015. Photo taken by Concern Worldwide]
[alt: Children wear newly-distributed winter clothes, 13th January 2015. Photo taken by Concern Worldwide]

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