A winter storm has blanketed much of the Middle East in snow, leaving refugees huddling for warmth in their makeshift tents.
The snow brought a temporary pause in the fighting in Syria, where the conflict has now entered its fourth year. But the freezing weather has brought more suffering to the victims of that conflict.
There are 7.6 million people who have been forced from their homes and are still living in Syria, while 3.3 million now survive as refugees in neighbouring countries.
Syrian families in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley live in makeshift tented camps, with apartments now too expensive to rent. Conditions are harsh at the best of times for them, half of whom are children. The cold weather puts them and older people with health conditions at risk.
Caritas Lebanon has provided humanitarian aid to the Syrians since the early days of the Syrian refugee crisis. Part of that help has been providing the refugees with stoves, a fuel allowance for heaters, warm clothing and blankets and helping prepare the tents to better withstand harsh winter weather.
Caritas also provides fuel to particularly vulnerable schools during the winter months to ensure warm classrooms as part of its education programme of getting Syrian children into Lebanese schools.
“The situation is really bad as the snowstorm was stronger than we have seen in recent years,” said Bruno Atieh, director of the Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre.”The storm has destroyed tents leaving many refugees homeless in the cold weather. Our winterisation efforts have helped prepare for the storm, but we need more to cover the needs, especially for families with children.”
Caritas winter programmes are also helping Syrians and Iraqis in Jordan and Turkey. Caritas in Iraqi has also launched a major winter programme for minoritues forced from their homes.