UNHCR works with Lebanon to help thousands fleeing Syria violence

UNHCR takes part in efforts to help hundreds of Syrians who have fled violence in their country and escaped to border areas of north Lebanon.

Members of a Syrian family arrive in northern Lebanon's Wadi Khaled with all the belongings they can carry.  © REUTERS/ Omar Ibrahim

BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 20 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is taking part in efforts to help thousands of Syrians who have fled violence in their country and escaped to the border areas of Wadi Khaled and Tall Bire in northern Lebanon.

Local leaders say some 1,400 people have crossed into these two regions over the past week from Tall Kalakh in Syria. This is in addition to those that have crossed since late April. Local authorities estimate that around 4,000 Syrians have crossed to Lebanon recently. The exact numbers are difficult to confirm.

Last week, caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri called on the Lebanese government's High Relief Committee to supervise and coordinate the response to the humanitarian needs of those displaced in the north. The pro-active role taken by the Lebanese authorities to ensure that new arrivals are assisted is encouraging.

Many of those who have crossed the border recently have come without any belongings; having fled what they say was heavy military bombardment of Tall Kalakh and surrounding areas. Most have found shelter with relatives or host families, and some are residing temporarily in a school in Tall Biri.

UNHCR has participated in a number of distributions of mattresses, blankets and food kits to assist the new arrivals. To date this includes some 3,500 mattresses and 1,600 blankets as well as more than 500 food kits, each of which is designed to feed a family of four people for one month.

Most of the people who have crossed the border in recent weeks are women and children. In addition to their immediate need for food, shelter and medical help, they also need psycho-social support. The latter is being addressed by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

UNHCR is supporting these efforts and has established a field presence in the north, working closely with the ministry to assess and provide needed protection interventions. UNHCR is following up directly with the government concerning reports of individuals being detained for illegal stay or entry and of some being returned to Syria.