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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that some 800,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon face considerable difficulties as temperatures dip, but has particularly emphasised the plight of some 125,000 living in tents in 200 camps in the Bekaa Valley.
The remaining 675,000 Syrian refugees live in over 1.600 locations throughout Lebanon.
“We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we’re extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard,” UNHCR spokeswomen Lisa Abou Khaled told the AFP news agency.
Snow storm Alexa hit Lebanon earlier this week, dumping snow and freezing rain in the region. The UNHCR believes this will be the most severe winter in decades and has taken emergency action to deliver stoves, blankets, winter kits and ATM cards with $150 in funds for refugees to purchase electric heaters and other needed items.
Beirut has appealed to the UN for more help in dealing with its refugee crisis; Lebanon is home to the largest number of refugees in the Middle East. There are another 1.5 million refugees in Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt.
The UNHCR announced on Tuesday that it would for the first time launch relief operations from neighbouring Iraq. Lebanon’s ministry of Social Affairs and the country’s military have been engaged in relief efforts.
Earlier this year, the UN appealed for $1.5 billion to salvage the “dramatically deteriorating” humanitarian situation.
The UN said in its statement that the twin appeals, $519.6 million for aid within Syria and $1 billion for refugees, comprise the “largest short-term humanitarian appeal ever.”
On Friday, Saudi Arabia pledged $10 million for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, while the Sultanate of Oman has started delivering sturdier mobile homes to refugees in Jordan.
Russia has in previous months pledged to help Lebanon deal with the tide of refugees.
Speaking to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman in Moscow in January, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would help Beirut deal with the large numbers of refugees pouring over its border with Syria.
In May, Australia donated nine million AU dollars (almost $8.7 million) to UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Australian Red Cross to help Jordan and Lebanon host Syrian refugees and, three million AU dollars (almost $2.9 million) for basic medical supplies, to train health care workers in first aid and emergency surgery, to distribute food parcels and supply clean drinking water within Syria.
Several other countries, including Russia, China, the US, the UK and the EU, have pledged and delivered financial, as well as logistical, support.
But according to UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, more efforts must be exerted at next year’s Geneva Peace Conference to end the civil war that is estimated to have killed more than 100,000.
On Wednesday, the 1,000th day since the Syrian crisis began, she released a statement saying that the international community could prevent another 1,000 days of suffering and bloodshed.
“This shocking milestone should spur everyone involved in the Geneva peace conference in January to make it a genuine turning point in the conflict: To end the violence and ensure full humanitarian access for Syria’s starving and beleaguered people,” Jolie’s statement said.