Syrian families struggle to keep warm in harsh winter

Help children and families fleeing violence in Syria


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

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

Others have borrowed stoves from Lebanese neighbours, and still others have taken to burning whatever rubbish they can find to generate some heat. One woman Patricia met was burning nylon bags and filling her shelter with smoke. The woman conceded that the practice likely posed a health risk, but she had no choice but to try and keep her children warm.

One local clinic reported that it was treating about five to six children a day with pneumonia, and fevers with extremely high temperatures.

Recently, World Vision distributed more than 1,000 stoves to unregistered refugees living in West and Central Bekaa — one of the coldest regions in Lebanon. Distributions were delayed a week due to snow-blocked roads.

Families also received coupons to purchase diesel fuel to power the stoves. The stoves can be used for heating and cooking. A mother of two said 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.”

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.

TOP: Hiam (age 5, on the left) and her sister Asthma (age 3, on the right) in the Bekaa, one of the coldest areas of Lebanon. It is a critical time for many Syrian refugees living in tents or housing that are flimsy or without heating, leaving them especially vulnerable to the cold. ; BOTTOM: Ibrahim, 7-years-old, standing on the doorstep of his tent. Ibrahim’s mother said, that yesterday he was crying from the cold. Ibrahim had to help his father removing the snow from the ceiling of his tent so it can hold for the night, and he started crying from the cold. Picture: Ralph Baydoun/World Vision

Support disaster ready fund Help to pre-stock warehouses with life-saving supplies like heating and stoves and ensure our staff are ready to respond before disaster strikes

About 200,000 people have fled civil war in Syria and sought refuge in Lebanon.

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. More than 730,000 Syrians have sought refuge across the region since the civil uprising in March 2011.

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

Each stove costs about US$100 and families require about $100 a month in fuel coupons.

In addition to stoves, World Vision continues regular distributions of hygiene supplies and food vouchers to around 40,000 refugees. The organisation also runs special classes for refugee children unable to attend regular school in Lebanon. World Vision runs Child-Friendly Spaces — safe areas of fun and recreation where children can enjoy the freedoms of childhood for a few hours each day.

How you can help

Your support for the Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal will enable World Vision to help children and their families affected by this conflict. Donate today to help families gain access to food, blankets, warm clothing, fuel and personal hygiene items.