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Tags: syria | refugees | lebanon | crisis

Syria Refugees, Lebanon Straining Over Mounting Humanitarian Crisis

By    |   Monday, 30 December 2013 05:13 AM EST

Syria’s civil war, now close to three years old with no end in sight, continues to take a devastating human toll on the Syrian people.
Today the largest refugee population, approximately 1 million people, lives in Lebanon. Nearly half of these are children. One of every five people living in Lebanon today is a refugee from Syria, Vanity Fair reported.

The refugee influx  has placed a tremendous strain on Lebanon’s education system, its power grid, social services, and infrastructure. The added demand for housing  has sent rents and housing prices soaring.

This has  put shelter out of reach for the refugees, many of whom are nearly destitute after fleeing Syria with little more than the clothes on their back and a few possessions, according to Vanity Fair.    

Many Syrian families have erected tents in snowy, mountainous areas like the Bekaa Valley in northeastern Lebanon. along the Syrian border. Others have had to improvise, finding shelter under abandoned bridges in Lebanese cities or in abandoned buildings.

Because of Lebanon’s difficult history with hundreds of thousands Palestinian refugees, who have lived in camps around the country for decades, Beirut has not permitted the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide tents or anything else that could eventually become a permanent structure.

The Lebanese government recently did agree to permit the UNHCR and the Ikea Foundation to undertake a trial program of building temporary shelters for refugee families.

With Lebanon and Syria’s other neighbors like Jordan and Turkey also straining.to deal with burgeoning refugee populations of their own, hundreds of Syrians have died in desperate attempts to reach Europe by boat.

The United Nations has appealed for $6.5 billion in aid for Syrian refugees next year, but it remains to be seen how much of that assistance will materialize.

Earlier this month, Beirut’s Daily Star described how thousands of Syrian refugees in Arsal, Lebanon were trying to weather a brutal winter storm that brought snow, rain and freezing temperatures much of the country.

The UNHCR and the Lebanese Army worked around the clock there  in an effort to distribute thermal blankets, money for heaters and other winter supplies to the refugees.

But despite the efforts, UNHCR spokeswomen Lisa Abou Khaled expressed concern for thousands of people living in hundreds of makeshift camps in northern and central Lebanon.

"We're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard," she said.Abou Khaled added that the UNHCR had stockpiled items including blankets, mattresses and plastic sheeting to help refugees whose shelters were destroyed by the elements.
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Syria’s civil war, now close to three years old with no end in sight, continues to take a devastating human toll on the Syrian people.
Monday, 30 December 2013 05:13 AM
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