Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Charity gives £250,000 Lebanon aid

Syrian refugee Zeinab Gharibt, 24, centre, holds her son Omar Gharibt in the outskirts of Tripoli in Lebanon, after fleeing their home when her house was destroyed and her brother-in-law killed during fighting

A British charity is to contribute £250,000 of emergency humanitarian aid in Lebanon, where more than a million Syrian refugees are now thought to be living.

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) has been providing aid to Syrian refugees via their international partners Caritas since December last year.

This has included giving out food vouchers, clothes and accommodation as well as support for medical care and trauma counselling for refugees and their hosts in Jordan.

The latest financial commitment to refugees extends SCIAF's work to Lebanon, a country which has been put under a huge amount of pressure since the start of the conflict in Syria, with refugees making up almost 25% of the population, putting a strain on resources, jobs and accommodation.

SCIAF is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a global confederation of 165 Catholic organisations which is one of the largest humanitarian aid networks in the world.

While the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) puts the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon at 793,615 (702,934 registered and 90,681 people waiting registration), Caritas Lebanon estimate the true total to be around 1.5 million.

Father Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon, said: "Syrians are in every possible corner, be that an unfinished building or a place to rent or a tent, it's unbelievable.

"The impact of their presence in Lebanon is going to be, in my opinion, horrible, be that on their own lives and on the lives of the Lebanese.

"As long as the problem continues in Syria and Syria continues to bleed, then people continue to flood to Lebanon and this is a very serious issue because it is going to create so many more problems to the Lebanese.

"It is also imposing more problems on our humanitarian interventions - because of the numbers the needs are growing much faster while the resources are getting fewer."

As the number of Syrians in Lebanon increases, tension between the two nationalities also grows as they compete for jobs and the availability of food and other resources intensifies.

"We do also try to mediate between the people because with so many Syrians and Lebanese around you have to expect conflict, so sometimes our social workers play the role of conciliation mediators, it's part of the mission," he added.

In locations throughout Lebanon including Tripoli, the north, Mount Lebanon, Beirut and its suburbs, the south and Bekka Valley, the Caritas Lebanon migrant centres have managed to assist more than 22,000 households - more than 125,000 people with food, shelter and basic medical care.

SCIAF will help to expand this work by providing essential items such as hygiene kits, blankets and stoves.

During a visit to Lebanon to see where the emergency funding will be used, Val Morgan, communications officer at SCIAF, said: "The plight of Syrian refugees continues to deteriorate.

"The longer this horrific war goes on, the worse the situation gets, both in terms of being able to keep up with the level of aid needed by the growing number of refugees and the huge impact this is having on neighbouring countries and their own communities."

Many Lebanese people are offering rooms in their home for Syrian refugees to rent.

Amne Ayoube has rented out space in the ground floor of her home in the outskirts of Tripoli to a Syrian family of nine at a reduced rate because she wants to help.

"Others are doing like me, they are helping" she explained through a translator.

The tenant, Zeinab Gharib, 24, and her extended family fled their home in Syria and have been living in this place for the last five months. She said: "Our house was destroyed and my brother-in-law was killed inside our house."

Lebanon is struggling to cope with the continuous flow of Syrian refugees across the border and a better long-term solution needs to be found.

Father Faddoul said: "Your brother can take you for a while, but for how long can he take you?"

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