The war that started in 2011 in Syria, made near 60 thousand Syrian families to seek refuge in Arsal, East Lebanon. Now, they are struggling for their lives against COVID-19, the economic crisis and the harsh winter. At 1,400m, in the 35 thousand people population are of Arsal, 6,500 Syrians are staying in the 150 camps under rain, useless tents and the cold winter. These conditions especially threaten children, elders and sick people.
The investigation team of IDDEF went to Arsal to determine the needs of the refugees who are struggling in with snow fall, water leaks and poverty in the camps. IDDEF made the following explanation: “What is lived in Arsal is a tragedy. Thousands of Syrian families are in need of food, blankets, bed and firewood. Now, with the current economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, they can’t carry out their needs by themselves. Winter also is like a curse that came every year to destroy their nylon tents. Under these conditions, they felt themselves far from the basic needs as food, heat, and even medicine”.
In the continuation of the previous explanation, this was said: “Syrian refugees in Arsal are having troubles with the cold winter, beside this they were affected by COVID-19 pandemic. With the first coronavirus case, 30 of our refugee brothers and sisters died in the first month. Due the increase of the COVID-19 cases in Bunyanul El-Kalmun and Mesakinu El-Kalmun camps, the government forbid the access to them, permission only was given to a few associations and humanitarian aid organizations. Each day it passes the number of deaths increases. In the past years people died of hypothermia, now with the pandemic the situation has worsened. To anticipate this, we took action immediately.”
Under the report of the demolition of the concrete construction, the next explanation was given: “Syrian that immigrated to Arsal due the civil war in their country had constructed concrete houses, however, Lebanon decided to demolish them and to place makeshift tents, this decision made the conditions turn harder to the refugees. Now with the arrival of the winter, life in the tents has turned into a nightmare. As the snow falls the tents collapse, if not, due the snow melting, water leaks into the tent. When winter storms hit the campground, temperature decreases to -4 and even to -10, survival conditions turn to be harder then. The prices of daily groceries and food are very expensive and the daily expenditure for the simplest livelihood is 15 US. People who can’t afford meat, they try to consume rice, wheat, lentils and butter. The percentage of unemployment in the camps is around the 80%, the rest of the people have low paid jobs. If this is not enough, The Lebanese government charges them a rent of 15 US for the use of tents. Many families are unable to afford this.”
Faize Halid Elvuheybi, a woman who is struggling for her life with her grandsons for 7 years in the tents said: “I’m 53 years old, two orphans are under my responsibility. I’m trying to raise both of them. We spend our life in this tent. We need food, clothes, wood stoves, firewood and blankets. The only thing I want now is this tent to be renew, this is because it is in a very bad condition. It is cold and it floods when it rains. I don’t know how to earn money for our needs. I want to look after my grandsons. We have already made ends meet and we have not been able to pay the rent. We used to like winter in our county, now we don’t. Hey Muslims! Help us! I have two orphans with me, nobody helps me”
Umm Hassan is trying to keep on with her disabled husband and sick son. On the one hand the embracing heat and on the other hand the harsh cold, this family is forced to endure under this tent. Umm Hassan, who is afraid of losing her house said: “We don’t have anyone but Allah. Trying to be thankful we move on. What else can we do? We are aware of our situation. We are obligated to be patience and bear with the situation. This isn’t new, it’s like this since Syria. We are oppressed and in a really bad situation. We don’t know anything about riots. They didn’t give us permission to go outside. Allah knows best. Right! This place isn’t our home, but we are forced to live in it.”
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