Snow spell adds to pain of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Snow spell adds to pain of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, about 900,000 of whom are registered with UNHCR

By Wassim Saif Al-Din

ARSAL, Lebanon (AA) – A snow spell is worsening the already tragic living conditions for thousands of Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon.

There are around 80,000 Syrians living in refugee camps in the northern town of Arsal, along with 40,000 others on the outskirts of the town.

Their living conditions in the camps have worsened in recent days after a severe cold wave hit the country amid heavy snow and rainfalls.

A 45-year-old Syrian refugee who gave his name as Abu Mohamed termed the conditions of refugees in Lebanon as “tragic”.

“We live in very tragic conditions amid the freezing cold in Arsal,” he told Anadolu. “Our tents have been buried in the snow,” he said.

“All refugees suffer from severe cold amid lack of all means of heating. We find nothing to warm ourselves but to burn down our clothes.”

- Freezing cold

Another refugee who gave his name as Fatima, 53, appealed for help amid the icy winter weather.

"We will die amid this freezing cold,” the mother of four said. “The snow has accumulated a meter thick on the roof of our tent. It will collapse on us.”

The Syrian mother said that she had to stop sending her children to school over the snow wave.

“No single NGO or charity has provided any helping hand to the refugees to assist them in this freezing cold,” she lamented.

Abu Khaled, 55, tore down his ration card in protest of a decision by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to remove his name from its aid program.

"The United Nations deprived me of my rights as a refugee," he told Anadolu.

According to an informed source inside the camp, the UNHCR reduced aid to more than 60% refugees due to lack of funding from donors.

“The suffering of refugees is escalating in all refugee camps in Arsal,” Abu Khaled said. “There is a shortage of food, heating and winter clothes, let alone the tents that have not been renewed or maintained,” he added.

The Syrian refugee appealed for urgent assistance “as there are children and elderly who are in a dire need for help.”

- High prices

Jamal, a 58-year-old refugee, said high prices of fuel are adding to their pains in Lebanon.

“The prices of diesel fuel are very high amid the high exchange of US dollar against the lira,” he said.

“Our suffering became even worse after our names were removed from the UNHCR aid program due to lack of funding,” he added.

“Living in these tents in the summer is like death due to the severe hot wave,” he said. “And in the winter, we die of freezing cold.”

Another refugee, Aisha, 47, complained of lack of help from charitable organizations.

"Charities come only once at the start of the winter season to give us 20 liters of diesel fuel, and then leave,” she said.

The Syrian woman said that her young son "is sick and his remaining seven brothers will die from the cold.”

“We don’t have diesel or woods [for heating],” she lamented.

Hassan Hadid, who is in charge of one of the tent clusters on the outskirts of Arsal, said refugees try to remove snow by themselves from the roofs of their tents.

“Refugees live in a very tragic condition due to the falling snow and freezing cold,” he said. “People here die of freezing cold.”

Hadid continued, “There is no diesel due to its high prices as result of the economic crisis.”

Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, about 900,000 of whom are registered with UNHCR.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been plagued by a crippling economic crisis that, according to the World Bank, is one of the worst the world has seen in modern times.

* Ikram Imane Kouachi contributed to this report

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