The suffering of Syrian women and men refugees and refugees in Lebanon

14 April 2020

Lebanon is one of the countries that recorded nearly 609 cases, and what makes Lebanon one of the countries greatly at risk of an outbreak of the virus is the deterioration of the health sector and the weakness in the presence of medical equipment such as respirators, as well as protective equipment for the medical staff. These factors are further exacerbated for the over a million refugees living in Lebanon, nearly 70% of whom live in informal camps on agricultural land, lacking the lowest necessities of life such as drinking water and sanitation services. In addition, these camps are densely populated, with two families living in one tent, and some tents include more than two families.

The Lebanese government has put in place a number of measures beginning with curfews, the closure of schools, universities, and gathering places, and then the closure of markets and shops except for food stores, bakeries, and pharmacies, provided that preventive measures are taken. Municipal councils have also taken some measures to provide support for prevention, but there have been reports quoting municipal council officials in the Bekaa that no aid has been allocated for them by the government, and, even if this is done, there is not enough assistance to cover the response except for the Lebanese population, which will not cover their original needs.

Decisions were taken by the municipal councils not to allow refugees to leave the camps even within the permitted times to move around, and each municipal council allowed one person from the camp to collect supplies for the entire camp, and with this step the camp became more like a prison.

As for the activities of humanitarian organizations, they were suspended for a period of more than three weeks, which, in conjunction with the complete closure of the camps and the suspension of the actions of refugees supporting themselves and their families, led to a humanitarian crisis in the supply of minimum food inside the camps and the lack of materials sterilization and detergents, whose prices have risen significantly since the quarantine (up to 400% for some items) such that refugees have not been able to buy them.

      A . A refugee 6 years ago in Lebanon: “I got married and have a 6-month-old girl. I used to work at a mobile phone shop. The shop has been closed for a month and a half, and now we have returned to work halfway where we were allowed to work in the shop from 9 am to 2 pm, where I receive half a salary, i.e. 120,000 Lebanese pounds, and with the rise in the price of the dollar, the value of this amount has become very low. My husband is disabled and we have nothing but this for the small amount in exchange for renting the tent, milk, diapers, food and drink, and with the approach of the month of Ramadan and the conditions of people are very bad, and there is no one who pity us, but rather they say that Syrians are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and get humanitarian aid, while many Syrians have been written off their names and did not receive any aid.”

Recently, a group of activists who managed to obtain authorization from their organizations entered and distributed some aid, which is still not sufficient and does not meet the need for the camps.

R . M, a Syrian refugee with 4 children, after her husband died in the Regime’s prisons, says: “The shops are closed and with patrols in the street you cannot see children in the street as before, people are committed in their tents and homes, most of the organizations’ work has shifted towards awareness where activities have been canceled in the camp. The problem is that even if people are educated, but with the sterilization materials lost, this awareness will go in vain. Everyone is unemployed and unable to provide food and drink, so how will they be able to provide sterilization materials. The restrictions on camp residents are more narrow than other villages, for example, one person from each camp brings in the needs of the people, except that there are things that are specific to the women and cannot be requested in this way and men cannot obtain them.

Perhaps the deteriorating situation is healthy and economical. The first result was that a Syrian refugee named Bassam Al Hallaq set fire to himself in the Taalbaya region in Lebanon on 5/4/2020 in front of a headquarters used by the UNHCR in the region.

Based on the previous offer, the Syrian civilian platform finds that the Syrian refugees in Lebanon are the most affected by the outbreak of the Coronavirus, since they live in unequipped camps, and they do not have the minimum conditions for social isolation nor sufficient sanitation and hygiene tools. The isolation measures and the curfew have resulted in the cessation of economic activities and the lack of relief and cash humanitarian assistance to the camps. Their intensification heralds a food crisis among the refugees.

Accordingly, the Syrian Civil Platform calls on the High Commissioner for Refugees to assume its responsibility towards refugees in the camps, especially since the Lebanese government has stated that the outbreak of the epidemic in Lebanon exceeds its ability to confront it:

– The distribution of relief and intensification of support for refugees in Lebanon, including those who were recently stripped from the UNHCR assistance program, must continue to be distributed and intensified.

– Work with humanitarian and medical organizations to intensify assistance in the areas of prevention and protection against the Coronavirus and to establish isolation tents and medical care tents inside every camp in Lebanon.

– The need to benefit from the existing experiences of Syrian doctors, nurses, and volunteers who are ready to provide services in the camps and have not been utilized until now.

We also hope that the donor countries will raise their food and health aid for the camps in Lebanon.