Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Face Death From Cold and Disease

A fierce winter snowstorm has heightened the misery and appalling living conditions facing most of the more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The President of Caritas Lebanon, Father Simon Faddoul says it’s certain that many Syrian refugees will die from cold and disease this coming winter and all of them are suffering right now. He spoke about their desperate plight.

After the UN, Caritas Lebanon is the main non-governmental provider of aid to the estimated 1.1 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon to escape the civil war in their homeland. Father Faddoul describes it as “a very gloomy situation” for many of these refugees, saying they live “in horrible conditions.” 

Although the Syrian refugees face a variety of living conditions in Lebanon, ranging from rented apartments, to tents, to uninhabited buildings or shacks. Father Faddoul says large numbers of them are living in makeshift shacks or even more unsanitary conditions: “ I know and visited a family of 10 who are living in a cowshed,” he says, amidst the dirt and with no infrastructure whatsoever. But regardless of the quality of their shelter, “they are all suffering… and it’s a very sad scene.”

Father Faddoul says the arrival of the first winter weather has exacerbated those sufferings, especially for the children and the elderly, because so many of the Syrian refugees lack proper winter clothing and there is “a lack of oil and gas” for heating. He also points out that there is a huge increase in deforestation levels in Lebanon because the refugees are cutting down so many trees to burn the wood and keep warm during the bitter cold. 

Asked whether the influx of refugees from Syria is still continuing, Father Faddoul replies that every day between two and three thousand Syrians are crossing over the border, putting a further strain on the already over-stretched resources of Lebanon. And he concludes by warning that with the coming of the winter cold, the refugees’ already “extremely difficult” living conditions are likely to worsen and will definitely lead to loss of life. “Certainly many will die from cold and disease.”

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