Lebanon News

Aid to Syrian refugees in north resumes after hostilities

The U.N. and its partners are now providing assistance to nearly 30,000 displaced Syrians in Lebanon.

BEIRUT: Many Syrian refugee families in the north of Lebanon have not received any form of assistance for the past two to three months due to the security situation in the area, but the situation has now been rectified, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to interviews conducted with displaced Syrians in Tripoli and Akkar during the first centralized distribution in the city, which involved several different nongovernmental organizations, along with the UNHCR and Lebanon’s Higher Relief Committee, “many families had not received any form of assistance for the past two to three months,” says a weekly report released by UNHCR Friday.

To avoid future gaps in distribution, enhanced coordination among all partners working in the area is now under way, the report added. Sporadic clashes over several different weekends led to at least 24 deaths in the northern city of Tripoli over May and June.

A significant amount of wounded Syrian refugees crossing the border to Lebanon are reported to be under 7 years old.

There have also been a “number of cases of victims of gender-based violence, and unaccompanied and separated children have been reported.”

The U.N. and its partners are now assisting nearly 30,000 displaced Syrians in Lebanon, the report added, over three-quarters of which are women and children.

The agency says it is now helping over 29,000 Syrians, an increase of 2,000 from last week, with 25,024 of those registered jointly with the UNHCR and the HRC.

Coordinators say the actual total is a lot higher. Alongside local, regional and international charities, the UNHCR and the HRC distribute basic food and non-food items as well as administer primary health care services.

The U.N. World Food Program has also begun distributing food vouchers to Syrian refugees in the eastern Bekaa Valley, and hopes to reach 27,000 people across the country by the end of July. This will gradually replace the distribution of food parcels.

A statement from the WFP Thursday said it hoped to reach some 40,000 refugees by the end of the year, but a UNHCR source said this figure was likely a projection.

“The voucher system allows people living in urban settings to buy their food, including fresh commodities, from local shops as well as boosting the local economy,” the statement said.

“The majority of Syrians have left their homes and lives behind – living, at best, with host families and, at worst, share derelict houses with other refugee families,” said Daly Belgasmi, WFP’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Shelter remains one of the biggest problems facing Syrian refugees in Lebanon. While many refugees are staying with host families, an increasing number are “resorting to rent as a shelter solution.”

“A long-term contingency plan is also in the pipeline in order to address a possibly protracted displacement situation,” the report states, of the shelter situation in the Bekaa.

In north Lebanon, the first prefabricated house for refugees was constructed on the grounds of a collective shelter – an abandoned school. Plans are under way for a second such “shelter box,” the report adds.

Elsewhere in the UNHCR report, the reluctance on the part of the Lebanese government to issue circulation permits to registered refugees is cited as a causal factor behind refugees being “confined to small areas and ... unable to search for work opportunities to help them provide for their families.”

Also Friday, the Irshad Charity Association in Tripoli provided in-kind assistance to around 1,000 Syrian refugee families in Tripoli, Mina, Qalamoun and Deir Ammar in cooperation with Qatari, Bahraini, Kuwaiti and Saudi associations.

Habib Shami, the head of the association, said that every member of each family received a set of clothing, along with shoes, mats and bedsheets.

“We are also preparing to deliver food parcels [to refugees] during [the month of] Ramadan, besides the monthly food parcels we are providing,” he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 30, 2012, on page 2.

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