It all started in December 2013 when activist and journalist Carol Malouf was contacted by the municipality of Arsal, along the Northern border of Lebanon with Syria, to highlight the plight of around 400 Syrian refugee families. They were located in a ‘no-man zone’ and a particularly devastating winter storm, dubbed Alexa, was about to hit the region. And so the NGO ‘Lebanese For Refugees‘ was born.
Lebanese For Refugees is working in the traditional manner, raising money through donations with the cooperation of several NGOs and organizations such as the Islamic Relief Committee, the US Embassy in Beirut, the European Union and Foodblessed, among others.
Despite their so-far short existence, Lebanese For Refugees can already boast numerous achievements. According to their annual report sent to Global Voices Online, they have managed to raise over 100,000 US dollars over three months from December 2013 to March 2014, and 20,000 US dollars in January 2015 as part of their ‘keep them warm’ campaign. The latter saw over 3,000 people donating clothes, shoes, toys, blankets, food and money, culminating in 22 trucks distributing the donated goods to refugees in several camps on the same day.
Furthermore, in their first weeks, they distributed diesel oil to 50 families (40 liters per family per week) with 5,000 US dollars spent weekly on fuel and cooking gas for the remaining winter weeks of 2013-2014. They distributed more than 1,000 food parcels and 2,000 meters of camp lands were covered in gravel. In addition, they spent 30,000 US dollars worth of medical aid which was distributed among refugees as well as arranging medical visits with staff from the American University of Beirut (AUB). Several cases requiring advanced medical care were then sent to AUB's Medical Center (AUBMC). And this is just a summary of their overall achievements.
The NGO is currently focusing its efforts on raising 20,000 US dollars for its upcoming projects. Lack of funding is a serious problem in handling the refugee situation. As we've previously covered, the efforts of Lebanon's civil society are far from enough. Only 60 per cent (757 million US dollars), of the amount requested by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2014 (1.2 billion US dollars) 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.”
But dealing with what can described as ‘donor fatigue’ can be very challenging. By now, the average Lebanese is used to seeing Syrian refugees in devastating conditions and with both refugees’ numbers increasing on a daily basis and the conflict nowhere near an end, it can be easy to start ‘getting used’ to the refugees’ situation. In an interview with France 24, Carol Maalouf discussed the challenge of donor fatigue:
There have been countless efforts to raise awareness concerning the plight of Lebanon's Syrian refugees. One highlighted by Lebanese for Refugees is “The Match Girl” a short Danish movie adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen‘s famous fairy tale of the same name. It was shot on location in Lebanon's Beqaa, where over 400,000 refugees currently reside. According to directors Thomas Pa Papetros and Darin “Daro Daro” Hassan, this particular fairy tale was chosen to “show that not much has changed over the last 170 years.” The film is a Turning Tables project funded by Red Barnet/Save the Children Denmark and supported by Kong Gulerod Film.
If you wish to contribute to their ongoing online fundraiser, you can do so at this link.