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Lebanon/ Two projects to help Syrians seeking refuge

MARCO PERINI describes the two projects AVSI is running in Lebanon to save thousands of families from the cold of winter and guaranteeing that children can continue to attend school

Syrian children classroom (Avsi) Syrian children classroom (Avsi)

An update on two projects to help Syrians seeking refuge from one of the most violent wars affecting our world today: the protagonist is AVSI Lebanon, with interventions near the border in order to save thousands of families from the cold of winter and guaranteeing that children can continue to attend school, despite the dire conditions in which they live. The two programs, vital for the survival and the future of these displaced Syrians, are being financed thanks to funds collected in AVSI’s end of the year “Tents” campaign. Ilsussidiario.net interviewed Marco Perini, AVSI Country Officer in Lebanon.

How many Syrian refugees are currently living in Lebanon?

Even as we speak the flood of Syrians arriving in Lebanon, both officially and unofficially, continues. The numbers are around 6,000 known refugees every week, so it's still a steady exodus. Today in Lebanon we are at about 120,000 individuals officially registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In reality, there are many more, because there are those refugees who needed to enroll with UNHCR to receive assistance, but there are also many other wealthy families, from Damascus, who can manage without political refugee status. And of course, there are those people who for various political reasons do not register for fear that the list with their names will end up in the wrong hands, which could make their future even more uncertain.

Four of your staff are present in Bekaa West. What are the components of your project there?

It is an ongoing project, building on previous work in Lebanon and Jordan, which remains urgent and dramatic. We are working in four regions to help over 2,000 people, including Syrians who have not yet been registered by UNHCR, as well as Lebanese returners. This last group is comprised of those who had been living in Syria for many years, but for many reasons have now returned to Lebanon, where they no longer own anything. Under the coordination of UNHCR and in partnership with the European Commission (ECHO), we are providing them with kits to allow them to fight the cold. In December, West Bekaa was under a blanket of snow.

Where are the refugees living?

The refugees are hosted in tents or in cramped rooms in cement buildings with no floors. When they arrived, it was still warm and they came with summer clothing and shoes. We distribute blankets, heating stoves and gasoline to keep them from dying from the cold. Our funding comes from AVSI Annual Campaign contributions from individual donors in Italy and around the world, and from the European Union. To date, AVSI has distributed 400 fuel vouchers, 160 stoves, and 2110 blankets for 422 families in Karoun, Mdoucha, Lala and Machghara regions.

And in southern Lebanon?