70,000 refugees at risk after heavy snow and floods
Amjad Yamin | Published 10. Jan 2019
LEBANON: "Syrian refugees in Lebanon evacuated dozens of settlements after the winter storm "Norma" brought flooding, snowfall and freezing rain across the country," says Giovanni Rizzo, NRC’s Area Manager in Bekaa, Lebanon.
Storm "Norma" has caused damages to infrastructure, roads and homes across Lebanon, putting at least 70,000 refugees at risk, more than half of whom are children, based on the latest humanitarian update.
"The storm has caused the collapse of many tents and flooding of several informal settlements to the points that refugees had to evacuate to alternative locations," says Giovanni Rizzo, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Area Manager in Bekaa.
1,000 heavily affected
This winter is proving to be one of the toughest for thousands of families displaced inside Syria and seeking refuge in Lebanon. More than 11,000 in Lebanon alone have so far been hit by a wave of snow, heavy rain and strong wind, forcing many of them to evacuate their already impoverished tents.
"We were very afraid that the strong wind would blow over our tents. Water was leaking from the top forcing us to move from one place to another while we tried to sleep," says Samira *, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley.
"NRC is responding in coordination with the humanitarian community and with local authorities that have also facilitated their bobcats to open the way for our teams to reach the most severely affected settlements." says Giovanni Rizzo.
Humanitarian assessments found 850 settlements at risk, with 361 sites already heavily impacted by the storm.
Eight years of displacement
"The photos do not tell our whole story, there is so much more that you cannot see: Eight years of displacement and struggle put a dent in you," said Asia*, 60, a Syrian refugee living in the Arsal area.
Winter conditions have had a bigger impact on the lives of refugees this winter, as 2018 saw a sizable shift of families moving, downgrading to living in tented and substandard structures across the country, as shown by inter-agency assessments.
"The response will continue during all January and beyond. We hope that by joining efforts with all actors involved we will mitigate most of the critical and urgent needs that are now causing refugees suffering," says Rizzo.
Living in informal tented settlements
Approximately 17 per cent of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in informal tented settlements. About 40 per cent of the tents in these settlements are in dangerous or below acceptable conditions, according to a recent vulnerability assessment conducted by UN agencies.
NRC has teams on the ground throughout Lebanon and will be responding where appropriate to the impacts of this storm and coordinating with other aid agencies to provide humanitarian relief in the event an urgent response is required.
Names have been changed to protect the identity of those featured in this story
Facts & figures
STORM NORMA IN LEBANON:
AT RISK: 850 settlements and at least 70,000 refugees, out of whom 39,900 are children.
HEAVILY AFFECTED: 361 sites and 11,300 people
Source: The Inter-Agency Coordination Unit - UNHCR