by Jamie Dettmer
BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON — According to a new United Nations report, about 400,000 Syrians have registered as refugees across Lebanon, but many more are undocumented. More than 95,000 refugees are in the Bekaa Valley alone, straining the resources of local communities.
The pace of the refugee influx from Syria into Lebanon is picking up as fighting intensifies around the capital of Damascus.
The Lebanese government has opted not to follow Syria’s other neighbors in setting up official refugee camps. Syrians mostly rent accommodation or are taken in by Lebanese families.
But with the flow of refugees rising rapidly, tent camps are beginning to sprout up. In Bar Elias in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, there are 11 tents for 70 refugees
Twenty-eight-year-old Abir Abo Ras has been in the makeshift camp for 20 days and gave birth two weeks ago. She has complications from the labor, has been bleeding, and is short of food for her newborn daughter.
“She’s very hungry and I cannot give her my milk," she said. "I weighed her yesterday and she is a half-kilo less.”
Jazeya Kassab, a 38-year-old mother of five from the city of Homs, says she had no choice but to come to Lebanon last month after government soldiers seized her husband and an air strike destroyed her house. Three of her children are with her but the two eldest stayed behind to find information about their father. "Nobody brought any blankets, and only one box of food,” she said.
Sana Abo Ras, a 25-year-old mother of two small boys from the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, says children recover slowly from the trauma of war and fleeing their homeland. "When we came here the children used to wake up when they heard a dog barking or because of the jets there they used to wake up shivering. And we used some kind of medicine to help them sleep at night," she said.
The winter has passed in Lebanon, bringing warmer days. But the elderly and children in the camp remain wedged between wasteland and ramshackle concrete houses. The violence inside Syria makes it too dangerous to return home.