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On the ground in Lebanon

A look at the life of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley

Story by Swiss Solidarity July 2nd, 2015

Since 2011, nearly four million Syrians have fled the civil war in their home country. Refugee numbers continue to rise as Syrian families leave in the hope of finding a safe place for themselves and their children.


Neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where most of the refugees are seeking shelter, are becoming increasingly overwhelmed in their endeavours to support these families in need. In Lebanon, the smallest country in the region with a population of 4.4 million, Syrian refugees account for one quarter of the population. Since Lebanon has no official refugee camps, the Syrian families are scattered across the country – the majority of them live in one of the more than 1500 improvised tent camps in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border. In some places in the valley, Syrian refugees make up the majority of the population.


“The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,“

said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The Lebanese people have shown striking generosity, but are struggling to cope. Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history. We cannot let it shoulder this burden alone.”


Accommodation for refugee families

Medair is meeting the most urgent needs of the refugee families in the Bekaa Valley in a project co-funded by Swiss Solidarity. Finding accommodation is one of the major problems facing refugees in Lebanon. This is why most of them live in makeshift shelters in fields rented from Lebanese farmers. There is no or very limited access to water and sanitation.

Medair is supplying newly arrived families with construction kits containing wood, plastic tarpaulins and nails so they can reinforce and improve the durability of their tents. The organization is also distributing essential household items such as cooking utensils, water filters, mattresses, sheets, toiletries and vouchers for petrol.


Access to basic medical care

Many Syrians are suffering from serious health issues caused by war injuries, the flight from their home country and the harsh living conditions in Lebanon. The public healthcare system cannot cope with the influx of refugees. This is why Medair is supporting four clinics in the Bekaa Valley which provide basic medical care for both the Lebanese population and the Syrian refugees. Thanks to Medair’s funding, a visit to the doctor now only costs 3000 Lebanese pounds (2 CHF) per person, making it affordable for the refugees.


Medair’s support has enabled the four clinics to increase their capacity and treat many more patients. The aid organization ensures that there are always enough doctors on duty, offers training to medical staff and provides medicines as well as urgently needed medical equipment such as ultrasound machines.


Since Medair personnel cannot be present at all tent camps all of the time, the organization works with refugee volunteers. One of them is Farah. Together with her husband and children, she has been living in a tent camp near Zahlé for three years.

Farah serves as a contact person for other Syrian refugees in the event of medical or other problems. She also gives them information about the clinics, advises women on contraception, family planning and the importance of pre- and postpartum care and alerts the Medair personnel if there are signs of malnutrition or any other problems in the camp.


Unfortunately, no one knows at present how long the Syria conflict will last. Every day, desperate Syrians are still fleeing in search of refuge and protection. They still need our help.

Thank you for your support.

Footnote: Text © Swiss Solidarity / Photos © Swiss Solidarity, © Medair, © Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund / Video © Vincent Urban & Stefan Templer
Zahle, Gouvernement Bekaa, Libanon