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.

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November 10, 2016

The Daily Star- NGOs mobilize refugee aid as winter arrives, November 10 , 2016

JUB JENNIN, Lebanon: As winter approaches, local and international NGOs are mobilizing in full force to help the more than 1 million refugees in Lebanon weather the season. “Refugees in Lebanon fear surviving winter the most. It’s too cold, it’s wet in their shelters, they’re worried about not having enough fuel to keep them warm, and for the health of their children,” Lisa Abou Khaled, a communications officer at the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) told The Daily Star. “When it snows, many in elevated areas like the Bekaa shovel their roofs [constantly].”
Five years since the onset of the Syrian crisis, winter remains one of the toughest challenges for the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in substandard conditions throughout the country. Many have found temporary settlement in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border.
“Winter is when we get the most aid and attention from organizations,” the shawish – or “sergeant” – of a refugee camp in Jub Jennin, Western Bekaa said. “Other seasons are quiet, but now is when we get vinyl sheets, graveling, clothes and sometimes food vouchers.”
The shawish is the leader of a settlement, but like many, did not want to give his name. As one of the first to have arrived in Lebanon and established contacts, the shawish communicates directing with NGOs, landlords and hospitals on behalf of the entire settlement.
For the country’s most vulnerable population, winter is unmerciful, worsening an already grim quality of life. Rain and snow flood the informal settlements, creating rivers of mud and destroying makeshift tents. As temperatures drop, refugees without adequate shelter and clothing struggle to stay warm.
“It was very hard to walk around [the settlement]. The mud would reach to our knees. Kids couldn’t even walk through it,” lamented a Syrian woman living in Jub Jennin. “There was no way for children to go to school. Mud would get into the house too.”
While she spoke, a young man pointed just below his knees indicating how deep the mud would tread.
“The mud would never dry. It was like this all winter long,” the Syrian woman added.
The informal tented settlement of about 200 refugees at Jub Jennin has recently been by selected by Medair, a Swiss NGO partnering with UNHCR for terrain rehabilitation. After months of assessments, the Jub Jennin camp was labeled one of the most vulnerable camps and in dire need of help. By laying aggregate on the dirt foundation, the settlement will be less prone to five months of mud.
“We started laying aggregate on the ground to stop flooding. We also created drains, which were done under the supervision of our engineers, so that water can be drained [efficiently] from the camp,” explained Bader Ghandour, a Medair engineer working on site.
Murad Mahmoud al-Hassan, a young refugee living in Jub Jennin, proudly showed off the work he had done to rebuild the settlement’s drainage system.
Hassan is one of few casual laborers employed by Medair to help facilitate projects on the ground. For Medair, hiring refugees living in the settlements provides insight into the community that they would not otherwise have. “I do this for the community that I’m living with. It’s my responsibility to help. The extra money ...” Hassan paused before answering, “helps somewhat.”
Yet not every camp is eligible for Medair’s services.
“We have an assessment team which produces a questionnaire. They distribute the questions to refugees and based on their scoring, families will receive certain kits. From the assessment to the actual implementation, it all begins months before winter arrives,” explained Hiba Fares, a communications and PR representative at Medair.
Several kilometers away, a smaller settlement sits on the edge of one of the wine producer Chateau Kefraya’s vineyards. For the small community, Medair has provided insulation kits to heat tents throughout the winter.
“We prioritize giving the insulation to [those who live in] tents that are outside of a settlement because they’re the most vulnerable to weather compared to those in the middle,” Fares said. “The material provides insulation to keep the rooms warm. We install them in one tent to show them how to do it, then we leave the material for them to install for themselves.”
“It makes a difference; it already feels warmer than the other rooms in the house [that don’t have] insulation,” says a young mother whose house has been used as the pilot.
“The winters are always very hard,” remarked a mother of three. “We needed to use more fuel and wood to create heat. Now, we won’t need to use as much. We will save some money by using less fuel.”
Despite successes, UNHCR’s Abou Khaled pointed out that there remains an enormous gap between need and available supply.
“For 2016, UNHCR, together with other agencies and the government of Lebanon, have requested $2.48 billion, Abou Khaled explained. “So far we’ve only received 60 percent of our funding needs. It’s not enough to cover their needs for winter, or in general.”
For many refugees from Syria, the length and severity of the war has depleted their funds, overwhelming families with debt.
“The average debt for a family is almost $900 a month and we’re talking about 90 percent of the population and 70 percent are living under the national poverty line. Fifty percent of Syrian refugees live below the extreme poverty line, living on less than $2.09 a day,” Abou Khaled explained.
One Syrian father of three said the mere stress of the situation and dissolving hope for a “normal” future drove him to suffer from a severe heart condition. His deteriorating health led to surgery heavily funded by several NGOs.
While holding his medical paper, he agonized, “See, my health is good. I have no issues with cholesterol or anything. But everything was so depressing, so difficult. That’s why I had a problem with my heart. We were fine in Syria; we used to be the ones giving to people in need.”

Source & Link : The Daily Star

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