More than 340,000 Syrian refugees in Bekaa Valley now face new challenges due to heavy rain and snow, high winds, and frigid temperatures that have hit Lebanon.
On January 6, Winter Storm Norma caused flooding, erosion, and heavy snowfall throughout the region. Snow has made road access difficult in more isolated areas. Forecasts indicate that another more severe cold front is approaching and is expected to cause a sharp drop in temperatures, snow, and strong winds, making living conditions even more oppressive for refugees.
"Our teams are on the ground responding to the impact of strong winds, rain, and snow on people, especially in the informal camps where Syrian refugees live," says Beatriz Navarro, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in Lebanon. "To date, 151 informal settlements have been heavily impacted, especially in terms of shelter conditions."
"We have started draining water in some places by using water pumps, in addition to distributing blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits ... as much as weather conditions have allowed," adds Navarro.
Over the next few days, it is estimated that between 3% and 5% of the tents where the refugee population lives could collapse due to heavy snow accumulation. If this occurs, approximately 1,000 people would need emergency shelter and urgent relocation.
"Extreme temperatures and lack of access to the affected areas during the next storm will be a real problem in Aarsal, where 50,000 Syrian refugees live. Most live in informal camps and in precarious conditions," says Navarro. "We will be distributing water tanks and drainage kits in advance of the next severe weather event, before water tanks and pipes freeze. We will also provide plastic shelter materials to those most affected by heavy winds."
Action Against Hunger is also clearing access routes for areas that are hard to reach due to ice and snow. We have spread more than twenty tons of salt, so our teams can continue to deliver rapid responses after the second storm hits. Our teams are working around the clock to clear roads, dispense drainage and snow removal tools, and distribute fuel, blankets, and warm clothes.
Action Against Hunger has been working in Lebanon since 2006 to strengthen the resilience of Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese populations. Since 2011, we have been one of the main organizations supporting Syrian refugees in the country.