The sea has come to us: Syrian refugees are hardest hit by the "worst storm" in Lebanon


"The water was going from tent to tent, we kept moving from one room to the other until I could not take it anymore." I did send the children elsewhere, "recalls Kassaf. He spent the night soaked in his bed and waited for the storm to pass.

The water has reached almost half a meter in many Syrian refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon this week. Humanitarian workers in the region say some 600 refugee families have been forced to evacuate their homes, facing rain, rain and strong winds to find shelter. They went through sewage that went through the drainage system to get into the shelter.

In the northern city of Minyeh, an 8-year-old Syrian girl died during the storm after falling into a river and drowning.

Rahma Mohammed Ali, 60, is visually impaired and lives alone in a tent. When meteorology called Norma hit Monday, her neighbors helped her out. "It was chaotic and completely humiliating, and the smell of sewage was deadly," says Ali.

The storm covered much of the Lebanon mountain under the snow, damaged some of the biggest bridges in the capital and swept its seaside towns. In its lower areas, such as the Bekaa plains, floods have caused temperatures near freezing.

Like every Lebanese winter since the beginning of the war in Syria in March 2011, Syrian refugees have been hardest hit. The camps dot the Bekaa plains, part of northern Lebanon and the mountains near the border area of ​​Arsal where the tents are covered with snow.

The storm Norma, say aid workers and refugees, is the worst they have endured for years.

"We always used to joke about the fact that the people of the Bekaa plains were asking the government to give us a beach," said Meshaal Hammoud, head of operations at the local SAWA organization. development and help. "Well, now the sea has come to us."

"This storm was an absolute disaster," says Hammoud, himself a Syrian refugee.

Planks, polystyrene boxes and other objects allow to dry in the tent of Kassaf.

Although many of the more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon have lived in the country for the last seven years, their accommodation seems to have been built for a short stay. The tents of the refugee camps are made of tarpaulin, corrugated iron and wooden planks. Refugees are trying to protect their shelters with extra fabrics and nylon, but few can protect them from the extreme weather conditions that occur each year in Lebanon.

"There is a terrible infrastructure in which the camps are and, since there are no permanent structures, we face the same problems every year," he said. SAWA for development and help director Rouba Mhaissen, who ran a fundraising campaign to help the affected refugees.

The group raised more than $ 40,000 on the day the storm struck and helped evacuate more than 20 Syrian refugee camps, providing evacuees with shelter, food, mattresses and blankets.

A daughter and her father, Syrian refugees, have been living in a local store for almost three years. They woke up Tuesday and discovered that they were surrounded by water.

It is a hard effort to counter the decline in aid to Syrian refugees. In May, the United Nations warned of a "critical deficit" in 2018 in terms of funding Syrian refugees. Only 18 to 22% of the necessary funds have been covered, according to the UN.

In Lebanon, 12% of the Syrian refugee program was funded in 2018.

Aid workers warn that the war in Syria is calming down, that the fate of its refugees continues.

"The misery is increasing in the camps because the aid is decreasing," said Mhaissen. "Even though the intensity of the war has decreased, the refugees still can not go home because they have other concerns."

The plains, now submerged by the waters, separate two Syrian refugee camps in the Bar Elias region.
Refugees remain concerned about conscription in the Syrian army, lack of occupation in a war-torn country and fear political revenge against those who have sided with Syria opposition in his struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"I've never received less help than this year," said Fatima Saleem al-Khalife, 30, rocking her toddler, Ahmad. "I have to pay 100,000 LL ($ 66) a month for the land where this tent is installed … and I still need a cloth to cover my house."

Ahmad caught the flu during the storm and almost choked in breast milk because of her nasal congestion, she said.

"Wherever you go, there was wind, cold, and humidity," she said, pointing to the nylon sheets covering her house.

Mohammed Kassaf is in the living room of his tarpaulin tent.

Mohammed Kassaf wears rain boots and walks in the puddles of water that submerge the floor of his tent. He builds wooden planks and rocks on which visitors who are poorly equipped by the weather can walk to stay dry.

Sitting on the only bed in the tent, with piles of mattresses stored on a high shelf, he waits for the end of the storm so that his children can return.

"What did the children do to deserve this? They ask me when they come back to the tent because they were born in the tent," says Kassaf. "They do not know that we are displaced people, refugees living under tarpaulins."

"In summer, the sun burns us and in winter, as you have seen, the waters flood the waters, we do not know where to go and who will receive us."

To help support efforts for Syrian refugees, you can donate to SAWA for development and assistance to