The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

Search This Blog

October 11, 2014

The Daily Star - Winter refugee support on thin ice as funding dwindles, October 11, 2014

Mazin Sidahmed

With winter around the corner, aid organizations in Lebanon are scrambling to prepare Syrian refugees for the icy, wet months ahead, but with more people continuing to stream over the border and a chronic lack of funding, they face an uphill battle. “This is a priority and it’s absolutely necessary,” UNHCR spokesperson Dana Sleiman told The Daily Star. “We saw this last year, and we know how difficult it is for refugees.”

The preparation process – known as winterization – involves providing refugees with blankets, mattresses, stoves and fuel vouchers, and is particularly aimed at those living in Lebanon’s coldest regions and those most exposed to the elements due to inadequate shelter, such as informal settlements and unfinished houses.

“We’re providing the bare minimum for refugees to be protected and to be warm,” Sleiman said.

Throughout the region, 800,000 Syrian refugees are at risk of disease and possibly death this winter, says a report released by the Syria Needs Analysis Project run by the Geneva-based Assessment Capacities Project. Some 60 percent of Lebanon’s more than 1.1 million refugees are estimated to be living in the country’s coldest regions, SNAP says.

Sleiman said they “lost sleep” over winter last year. “Especially during the Alexa Storm,” she added, referring to an unusually harsh few days of heavy snow and freezing temperatures in mid-December.

However, emergency efforts largely managed to cover the most desperate needs.

Save the Children was able to provide support for approximately 70,000 individuals last year, said Marion Mckeone, the NGO’s media, advocacy and communications director, including waterproofing for tents, site-improvements to reduce the risk of flooding, and direct cash assistance.

“It wasn’t enough, it’s never enough,” Mckeone said. “[But] it did significantly help. Especially families with small children, with babies, with children who were sick, it did mitigate against [the cold].”

One breakthrough from last year was the use of cash transfer to refugees. The scheme saw aid organizations give debit cards to refugees for personal bank accounts that had money put into them every month.

Approximately $550 was given to each household over the course of the winter, and although there were fears that families may use the money irresponsibly, Mckeone said an International Rescue Committee report on the method found that it was instrumental in helping families get through the deadly cold weather.

There was no stipulation for how refugees should spend the money, Mckeone explained, and the report found they used it to address their most urgent needs such as buying children’s clothes, food and water.

“While not used 100 percent for fuel and keeping warm, it was used to get them through the winter.”

But while aid agencies managed to scrape by last year, this year is looking much bleaker. The number of registered refugees has surged to 1.14 million from 690,000 in 12 months, and, according to the recent SNAP report, is expected to reach 1.5 million by the year’s end.

The shortfall in funding is also much starker. According to UNHCR, only 40 percent of the requested $1.5 billion needed for programs in Lebanon has been received so far.

Despite this, Sleiman said that due to the intense risks that winterization presents, UNHCR will dedicate whatever funding necessary to meet winterization needs.

The U.N. refugee agency is planning to provide some 25,000 households with stoves, 100,000 households with fuel for heating, and weatherproofing for 344,000 vulnerable refugees – an increase from last year’s assistance.

Other organizations such as Save the Children, however, have had to scale back.

“The INGOs [International Non-Governmental Organizations], including [STC] have much less money and we have to do a lot more with it,” Mckeone said.

Save the Children is currently providing 1,040 households, which average out at six people each, with $175 per month and is hoping to provide the same to a further 1,100 households by the end of the year – a sharp decline from the 7,800 households they gave cash assistance to last year.

Mckeone said they were hoping to increase the number of households given shelter support to 20,000 this year from 13,000 last year, but that they required $14 million to do so.

“We desperately need the international community to provide more money,” she said. “This winter we are really concerned that – given the lack of funding and the increased needs – that people are really, really going to suffer, even more than last year.”

“We’re going to see morbidity, we’re going to see people not being able to recover from the illnesses.”

Several aid organizations have actually opted out of this year’s winterization schemes due to the lack of funding and in order to focus on other programs including helping the Lebanese communities that are hosting refugees.

The Danish Refugee Council will not take part this year due to the “increased capacity” of other partners and a shift in their focus.

“All actors are now shifting from pure humanitarian/emergency assistance to stabilization and community-based interventions including host communities affected by displacement,” Olivier Beucher, Lebanon Country Director for DRC, said by email.

World Vision Communications Director Patricia Mouamar said the NGO was trying to raise funds to take part in winterization this year but was not hopeful. She too stressed the shifting emphasis on aiding host communities.

“The poverty line has changed a little bit. There is a category of people that used to live OK but because of the [refugee] crisis their income has decreased,” Mouamar said. “This is a new Lebanese family.”

Source & Link: The Daily Star

No comments:

Post a Comment