Critical phase for relief work in Lebanon

Cuts in the budgets of the UN and other major donors make the future of Lebanon’s over one million refugees more unsure than ever before.

The consequences of the recession in the aid budget are already taking its toll, as both humanitarian actors and affected beneficiaries express both concern and frustration over the situation, this due to the identified needs of the refugees in the field does not reflect the reduction in aid funds. There are simply not enough resources to meet the most basic needs.

The six-year civil war in Syria has led to the most serious humanitarian crisis yet seen this century. A conflict in which has created scars for generations to come, we are now are talking about a lost generation of children. 12-13 year olds are growing up without education. Approximately 5,2 millions Syrians are registered as externally displaces by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) as of 29 of September 2017. This is in addition to the 6,5 million IDPs (Internally Displaced person) that currently have fled the war within the borders of Syria. 2.8 million of these IDPs are children.

Currently the official number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon is about  1 million however, there dark numbers are high and both the UN agencies and official governmental actors express that the figures are as high as the double. This is among others, was since refugees were not allowed to register themselves as refugees as of May 2014, in addition many refugees did not register in the period it was allowed due to either security related issues, or the fact that they were not aware of the possibility due to the high influx of refugees at the period they entered the country.

50,000 Syrian children are born in Lebanon this year
Lebanon is currently on the range of total collapse of its vital social institutions. Even if there are reports of refugees returning to Syria, the numbers entering illegally is not decreasing, as the numbers are higher than ever.  More than 50,000 (!) children will be born in the Syrian refugee camps this year, compared to approximate 40,000 last year. In contrast to the around 70,000 Lebanese children that were born last year.

Moreover, several countries and organizations have now reduced the aid budget for Lebanon, where several founds have decreased by 15% within the last year. While the United States has announced that their contribution in 2018 will be significantly lower than this year, UNHCR are desperately seeking more funds, as the contributions to the crisis in Lebanon never have been lower.  Currently only 27 % of basic needs for 2017 are being covered.

Expensive to give birth to children
Last week Abri Aid was on a new assignment in the Bekaa Valley. During two hectic but effective days, we managed to help 19 people with both acute and longer-term health problems. We used our time in several camps and hospitals within the Beqaa Valley, where we currently are supporting a high number of beneficiaries with health-related services.

The refugees in Lebanon must pay for their entry at a hospital, whether it is a private or public hospital. The UNHCR support up to 75 % in certain prescribed matters, and in more serious cases when it comes to life or death. This applies, to for example, births, where a Syrian family pays USD 100 as their part of the payment that is 25 %.

If there were to be any complications, or necessary with a longer stay at the hospital in relation to the birth of a child, the expense could easily rise to well over a USD 1000, an unaffordable amount for many Syrian families living below the poverty line. Although many benefited from savings or sold their belongings straight after they escaped from Syria, the war is now within its sixth year, and these resources have already been used for survival.

Without any good opportunities, for employment in Lebanon, the economic situation of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees is extremely precarious. They might manage today, but will they have enough for tomorrow?

Some believe that the refugees now will start returning to their country however, the refugees Abri Aid talked to last week deny that this is an option.

Do not consider returning home
A middle-aged couple from the outskirts of Damascus says that they until now never have considered to return home. While using an interpreter, they tell us that the presence of Daesh (IS) and Al-Nusra is far too big for it to be safe for them. The man is a trained electrician and they lived a good life in Syria before the war broke out during the spring of 2011. Now they have nothing. Their home is gone and they rely on funds from, among other actors, Abri Aid to get the necessary medication and medical treatment.

You can still feel the summer temperatures in Lebanon, also in the Beqaa Valley. But in the evenings and at night you get a carful reminder of what is in store in the upcoming months. Winter is coming, and this is a season characterized with a lot of heavy rain, snow and temperatures below Zero.  Then, in addition to medical assistance, there biggest need will be within winterization items, such as tents, blankets, stoves and fuel for heating. Then again, with funds continuing to decrease, the tragic consequence this year will be that more innocent children and adults are freezing to death.

Great need for winter
After almost a year in Lebanon, Abri Aid see the major problems and challenges that exists in the country. By not having a long and bureaucratic line between the people in need and our funds, we can react quickly to current and rising needs in the field. Our contributions are not helping everyone in need, but for every intervention we manage to help new individuals, during our last trip we helped 19 individual cases with medical assistance.

Now that winter months stands in front of us, we will invite others to join in, to make sure that more children and adults survive this winter.

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