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Zeina storms Lebanon : Syrian refugees are in the front line

BEIRUT |, with agencies - January 10, 2015, 18h17
Photos: Unicef / Lebanon 2015 / Alessio Romenzi
According to local media, three Syrian children, refugees from Syria in Lebanon, froze to death as storm Zeina hit the country last week. While UN organizations say they do their best to address the impact of the tempest, Lebanese Health Minister Wael Abou Faour slammed the international organizations, while claiming they had failed so far.
Displaced children from Syria living in flimsy makeshift tents at high altitudes have been struggling to cope - and even survive - as the winter storm Zina brought unrelenting freezing winds, heavy rains, and snow to Lebanon, UNICEF stated in a press release on Friday. UNICEF and its NGO partners have been distributing pre-positioned winter clothes for children, blankets, tarpaulins, and high energy biscuits, reaching 75,000 Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestine refugee children in the most affected areas so far. Emergency mobile health teams, alongside the continuing Mobile Medical Units have treated over 1,600 patients in the informal settlements.

“Our teams and local implementing partners have been working around the clock to address the impact of the storm on the most vulnerable children and families,” said Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “Every single effort needs to be made immediately to avoid unnecessary tragedies that could be prevented.”

During the last 72 hours, with the Ministry of Public Health, and the local NGO Beyond Association, UNICEF funded Mobile Medical Units have been going from settlement to settlement, where access has been possible. At least 1,600 patients have been consulted from tent to tent and many health cases among children related to the cold temperatures, including flu, fever and skin diseases were treated.

This winter UNICEF will spend USD 11.5 million dollars alone to assist 456,500 vulnerable Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestine refugee children: 160,000 children will receive winter clothes kits; 135,000 children winter clothing vouchers; 155,000 children will benefit from fuel for heating in 583 public schools; 6,500 children from flood mitigation measures in informal settlements.

Due to this week’s storm, key roads and highways were blocked with snow, hindering delivery trucks and mobile medical units from reaching badly affected areas. Deliveries have resumed and more winter supplies will be handed out over the weekend and next week, while mobile medical teams have resumed their activities.

UNICEF Lebanon has been preparing for winter since October, and prepositioned 28,000 winter kits in the Bekaa, Aarsal, and Akkar. Drainage kits for over 20,000 people were distributed to mitigate flooding in Informal Settlements, as well as plastic sheeting stocks for an emergency response.

At the same time, the number of vulnerable children in need has been growing on a daily basis. More and more displaced Syrians have run out of savings, and are having to resort to desperate measures - moving to tented settlements as a last resort.

From mid-December, UNICEF Lebanon and its partners have distributed some 70,000 winter kits with clothes to help keep children warm including 22,000 in Aarsal, 42,000 in the Bekaa Valley, as well as in the North and the South. In addition, 8,000 tarpaulins, 400 drainage kits benefitting some 20,000 people.

However, Lebanese Minister of Health Wael Abou-Faour, told the Middle East (ash-Sharq al-Awsat), News Agency today that the international organizations had failed so far with the snow storm Zina, .

Expressing discontent with a "bad performance of international bodies vis-a-vis Syrian refugees displaced into Lebanon", the Minister accused them of having "practically evaporated from the field with the full blown storm".

He said that whoever suffers from frost bites is prone to receive treatment at government-run hospitals free of charge.

He added that he disposed of no definite statistics as per the number of victims incurred by the storm.

The harsh accusations of Abou Faour come as Lebanon is facing a difficult time with the number of Syrian refugees increasing day after day. The Lebanese government seems incapable of dealing with this issue. The Syrian refugees have been taken care of mainly by international NGOs, such as UNHCR or UNICEF.
#Zeina, #Syrian_refugees, #Storm, #Tempest, #Cold
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