Bassam Shebab and his family fled the embattled Syrian city of Homs a month ago. Bassam was smuggled over the border in the north of Lebanon whilst his family crossed at the Bekaa Valley. He, along with his wife and five young children, have been sharing a makeshift shelter with his brother, sister-in-law and their two children, waiting for the fighting to stop to enable them to return home.
This family is not the only one waiting for the conflict to end in their home country. One million is the number of people who no longer sleep under their own roofs, wondering when they can return home, that is, if their home is still standing when that time comes.
One million is the number of Syrians that have fled to countries like Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to escape from almost two years of violence and civil war at home, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Figures show that half of the refugees are children, most of them aged 11 or under.
ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) are at work now in Syria’s neighbouring countries Lebanon and Jordan, and ShelterBox is considering a return to Iraq Kurdistan, and will look at further opportunities to deliver aid into Syria itself.
In Lebanon, the smallest of Syria's surrounding countries, the influx of refugees has swollen the population by ten per cent. SRTs are now delivering winterised ShelterBoxes in discrete micro distributions with various implementing partners to Syrian refugee families, like Bassam Shebab's.
'Never feel like home'
'We will be so much more comfortable in the tent,' said Bassam, relieved to be out of such cramped conditions. 'It will never feel like home but we thank ShelterBox for helping us.'
ShelterBox’s Head of Operations Ross Preston MBE commented, ‘The Bekaa valley is a corridor into Lebanon used by thousands of refugees. Housing is sparse and conditions in the winter weather have been appalling. With our distribution partners we are now making every effort to reach these widely dispersed refugee families, but this is a very challenging operation. Lebanon is being overwhelmed by the refugee crisis, and its government has given special permission to ShelterBox to provide tents to ease these people’s suffering.’
In Jordan, to which almost 325,000 refugees have fled, the focus is on the vast Syrian southern border. Here rest areas have already been established for newly arriving refugees, again using ShelterBox winterised tents.
'We have been working with Rotary Club members in Jordan to help the Jordanian authorities to plan much larger staging encampments where refugees would be registered and cared for before their onward journey to Zaatari Camp,' said SRT member Stafford Sumner (UK). 'We are in a good position to respond quickly as hundreds of ShelterBoxes are on standby here to help create these safe havens.'
In earlier deployments SRTs have set up winterised tents for 500 Syrian refugee families at Domiz camp in Iraq Kurdistan, and given stationery packs to its school, bringing children a new sense of hope. Blankets and equipment were also delivered within the Syrian border.
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