Lebanon: Syrian refugees fight to keep warm

World Vision is distributing more than 1,000 heating and cooking stoves to Syrian refugee families in Lebanon.

By James Addis, World Vision U.S., with reporting by Patricia Mouamar, World Vision Lebanon.
Published January 17, 2013 at 12:00am PST

Syrian refugees seeking shelter in Lebanon face an ongoing struggle to keep warm as the region copes with one of the harshest winters in decades.

Whatever it takes to stay warm

Patricia Mouamar, a World Vision communications officer in Lebanon, says refugees living in makeshift tents constructed from sugar sacks and cardboard have begun moving to shelters, which might have some form of heating, such as a stove.

Others have borrowed stoves from Lebanese neighbors, and still others have taken to burning whatever trash they can find to generate heat.

One woman was burning nylon bags and filling her shelter with smoke, says Patricia.

The woman conceded that the practice likely posed health risks, but she had no choice but to try to keep her children warm.

A local clinic reports that it treats five to six children a day with pneumonia and extremely high fevers.

Stoves provide warmth and cooking source

This week, World Vision is distributing more than 1,000 heating and cooking stoves to unregistered refugees living in West and Central Bekaa — one of the coldest regions in Lebanon. Beneficiary families also receive coupons to purchase diesel fuel to power the stoves.

Each stove costs about $100; beneficiary families require about $100 per month in fuel coupons.

One mother of two says the stove came at just the right time for her family. Reflecting on her situation, she added, “I wish the whiteness of the snow around us erases all the violence we have gone through.”

Unregistered refugees are most vulnerable

Karim Bayoud, World Vision’s refugee response manager, says World Vision decided to focus on unregistered refugees for the stove distributions because they are among the most vulnerable and cannot access formal assistance.

“They mainly count on Lebanese hosting families or their very limited resources,” says Karim. “This highlights the need of international organizations to get funded to be able to meet the needs of the most vulnerable refugees.”

About 200,000 people have fled civil war in Syria and sought refuge in Lebanon since fighting began in March 2011.

Thousands remain unregistered. Some hope to register soon while others perceive registration as a threat to their safety, or the safety of family members still in Syria.

Additional World Vision interventions

In addition to stoves, World Vision continues regular distributions of hygiene supplies and food vouchers to an estimated 40,000 refugees.

The organization also runs special classes for refugee children unable to attend regular school in Lebanon, and operates several Child-Friendly Spaces — safe areas of fun and recreation where children can begin recovering from emotional scars.

Learn more

Read our FAQs for an overview of the Syrian refugee situation in Lebanon and World Vision’s response to the crisis.

How you can help

Pray for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Pray that families suffering in the cold would gain access to the warmth they need to get through the winter. Pray especially for families who have been separated due to the conflict, and pray for emotional and physical protection for vulnerable children and families.

Make a one-time gift to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Your gift will help us provide basic hygiene kits, food vouchers for refugee families, and established Child-Friendly Spaces to provide affected children with a safe place to play, learn, and interact with their peers.