UNHCR and partners step up measures to help Syrian refugees amid massive winter storm

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Snowfall in the Bekaa Valley, the region in eastern Lebanon most affected by the storm.© UNHCR/A.McConnell

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is stepping up measures to protect the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including 120,000 living in flimsy tents, as they face the onslaught of a massive winter storm in the region.

With the support of the Lebanese armed forces, UNHCR and NGO partners were able earlier this week to speed up the distribution of additional emergency shelter kits – including plastic sheets, timber and tools – to thousands of refugees living in tents in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon, the region most affected, so far, by the massive storm system dubbed “Alexa.”

Alternative shelters are also being prepared for refugees whose tents may be affected by the snow, rain and flooding. Some 125,000 refugees living in the Bekaa have received winter kits and 55,000 more will be reached in the coming days.

Storm Alexa struck Lebanon on Tuesday night, bringing snow to higher areas and rain elsewhere, accompanied by high winds. According to forecasts, conditions are expected to remain difficult for several days, with further snow expected. Reports from Syria and parts of Turkey spoke of similarly grim conditions there.

Director of UNHCR’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau, Amin Awad, said “For the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Lebanon, as well as those in neighbouring countries and the displaced in Syria, a storm like this creates immense additional hardship and suffering,” adding, “With Lebanon’s help, we’re doing everything we can to get rapid additional help to people who most need it.

A host of other humanitarian agencies are working on the winter response in Lebanon, including the World Food Programme, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Organization for Migration, Oxfam, Medair, Save the Children, World Vision, Humedica, Mercy Corps, Caritas and Handicap International.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’43″

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