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Lebanon's Storms Add Insult to Injury for Syrian Refugees

Arsal, North East Lebanon, covered with snow. Picture taken by 'Lebanese for Refugees' with Permission.

Arsal, North East Lebanon, covered with snow. Picture taken by ‘Lebanese for Refugees‘. Shared with permission.

Syria's refugees living in Lebanon have been hit hard by stormy weather and snow.

As Lebanon endures its third winter storm since January, nicknamed ‘Windy’, reports of Syrian refugees suffering from the cold are already surfacing. At the time of writing, the strong winds and snow which have reached altitudes as low as 300 meters have taken the lives of three children in Bhenin, North Lebanon. As The Daily Star reported, “Rawaa, Talal and Sabah Sleiman were killed after their tent in the northern Minyeh-Dinnieh district town of Bhenin caught fire. Their bodies were transferred to the nearby Al-Khair hospital in Minyeh.” They were killed “when their tent caught fire Thursday, after an apparent electrical short caused by the severe weather.”

That Lebanon sees power outages, river water flooding roads and agricultural fields and countless people stranded for hours in the snow speaks volume to the impact storms usually have on Lebanon's ailing infrastructure.

This most recent incident highlights the severity of Lebanon's refugee situation. Lebanon, a small country of 4 million people, has taken in more refugees, around 1.2 million registered, than the majority of the world's countries combined. Nearly 25 per cent of Lebanon's current population consists of refugees. To put things in perspective, here's a widely shared image on Twitter under the hashtag #OpenToSyria launched by Amnesty International:

While Lebanon's civil society has been mobilized to try and help refugees’ basic needs, from fundraising concerts to monthly clothing donation drives, it remains insufficient on its own. And as if to make things worse, even United Nations agencies are finding themselves stretched out in terms of funding and available human resources. Indeed, only 60% ($757 million), of the amount requested by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2014 ($1.2 billion) had been donated by December 2014. The UN also recently announced that it is cutting Food Aid to 1.7 million refugees, citing “unhonoured cash pledges.”

The situation doesn't only affect the camps, but Beirut as well. As Joseph Willits of the Council for British-Arab Understanding tweeted:

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