By Soraya Naufal, Caritas Lebanon – Information and Communication Department

The number of Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011 has officially reached the alarming figure of one million individuals (mostly women and children). This, in a country of approximately four million inhabitants, already shaken by numerous conflicts over the past five decades, could lead to a disastrous humanitarian situation.

In order to reduce and prevent, from the start, social and humanitarian complications, Caritas Lebanon was among the first NGOs to rapidly deploy in the Bekaa valley and in the border regions, thus relieving both Christian and Muslim Syrian refugees and providing them with basic humanitarian needs: clothes, food, blankets… Its intervention is set up in collaboration with the UNHCR and the UNICEF, and according to the SPHERE standards.

Medical assistance targets mainly women and children in Caritas Lebanon’s Health Care Centers located in Zahleh (Bekaa), Tripoli (North), Deir el Kamar (Chouf) and Rayfoun (Kesrwan). Two of its nine Mobile Clinics drive around the tented settlement in the Bekaa valley, providing medical care to refugees. Children benefit from pediatric consultations as well as vaccinations. Pregnant women are given special attention and referred to Caritas Health Centers for free ultrasounds. Free medicine for acute diseases is offered directly to patients and upon doctors’ prescriptions.

Aiming at offering traumatized children a kind of a normal life and helping them forget about their suffering, Caritas Lebanon is providing many boys and girls with an educational program in public schools, in conformity with the Syrian standards, and help them buy their uniforms and stationery. Various recreational activities and psychological assistance for children are programmed. For utmost results, Caritas Lebanon shared in the preparation of the Joint Education Needs Assessment (JENA) with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNESCO.

Caritas Lebanon’s Migrant Center delivered two trainings on protection and on SPHERE standards, to municipalities and General Security agents working at the borders and CLMC staff. The aim of this training was to build their capacities on legal framework on displacement, protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as protection of survivors of gender-based violence.

In the Bekaa, Christian families are mainly located in Zahleh (approximately 500), Taalabaya and the Baalbeck area (approximately 150), where they either are accommodated in host family homes or share with a few families the rent of an apartment. Because they usually are farmers or workers in the construction field, it has been quite difficult for them to find work and make a living during the wintertime.

At first reluctant to do so for safety reasons, families are gradually registering with the UNHCR, in order to receive humanitarian assistance. Some are also referred by local dioceses which, sometimes, contribute to pay children’s school tuitions.

How did Christian Syrians feel about Easter? Deeply worried about their beloved ones as well as their future, it is very difficult for them to rejoice and celebrate the resurrection of Christ. For Palm Sunday, which is highly celebrated by Christians in the Middle East and is the time of the year when children dress in brand new clothes for the church procession, coupons were offered by Caritas Lebanon and Eldorado shop to buy clothes for children aged between 0 and 14 years old.

As it is difficult to gather Syrian Christian families for an Easter celebration, Caritas Lebanon has distributed to the poorest of those families a 200$ coupon for fuel and food.