UNHCR distributes relief aid to needy displaced Lebanese in Syria
DAMASCUS, July 26 (UNHCR) - In Syria, the UN refugee agency is distributing relief supplies to communal shelters providing emergency housing for Lebanese fleeing the conflict in their homeland, while monitoring the continued outflow of people along the Lebanon-Syria border.
A field report from UNHCR staff monitoring four major crossing points from Lebanon into Syria Tuesday said the numbers of arrivals were lower at around 8,000-9,000 in total compared to 12,000 the previous day and around 20,000 earlier.
The reason for the decrease was unclear, according to the report, but it was noted fewer people from the south of Lebanon were arriving compared to numbers of people from Beirut and other locations. The report also noted third country nationals from Sudan, Egypt were arriving as well as Syrian nationals. However, Palestinians were having some difficulty entering the country.
Out of the 150,000 Lebanese that were estimated to have entered Syria since the crisis began, some 100,000 have remained in the country.
In Damascus, UNHCR delivered Wednesday mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets as well as milk for children to five communal organised shelters housing more than 1,000 people. Over the next few days, supplies will be distributed to as similar number of people in more than ten other organised shelters.
But, many thousands of displaced Lebanese are living in organised shelters in other large cities and rural areas and are also in need of assistance. In conjunction with other UN agencies, UNHCR is surveying organised shelters outside the capital to gain a full picture of the location of the displaced.
"In the coming days our teams will also start reaching out to remote parts in the north of the country," said Laurens Jolles, UNHCR's acting representative in Syria. "Today we received information that new arrivals will increasingly be relocated to the northern areas of the country."
In Damascus and its suburbs alone, there are around 50 shelters. The Syrian Red Crescent, with which the UN refugee agency works closely, has established two mini-camps hosting 1000 people each on the land normally used for a summer-camp.
While the displaced are receiving food and shelter, they are trying to come to terms with their situation.
"We left Zweah in southern Lebanon ten days ago. Israeli airplanes were striking our villages and we just had to leave. We walked and we walked for two days until we reached Sour ... then we took a bus straight to Damascus, said one displaced man who preferred not to give his name, at Boor Said school in central Damascus. Like the other 600 Lebanese in crammed into the school, he's wondering if his home has been destroyed and if he'll ever return.
UNHCR staff have remarked on the extraordinary generosity of the Syrians to the thousands of displaced.
"All we give to the people is what we have received from private donors, organisations, shops and restaurants in town," said the manager of Boor Said school run by the NGO Al Ghaeb. "The Lebanese who turned up here have been receiving three meals a day, provided by the best restaurants in town. The donations of clothes, food, medicines, hygiene items and other goods have been overwhelming," he added. UNHCR has given blankets and mattresses to the school to make the displaced more comfortable.
Meanwhile, UNHCR's convoy of relief supplies bound for Lebanon, remains blocked in Syria, waiting confirmation from the UN system they have the all clear from the parties to the conflict, to travel to Beirut.
UNHCR has supplies for more than 20,000 people waiting in Syria to be delivered including 20,000 mattresses, 20,000 blankets; 5,000 family tents; 5,000 bales of plastic sheeting; 10,000 jerry cans; 5,000 stoves and 5,000 cooking sets with more supplies available from its regional stockpiles. In Jordan and Syria alone the refugee agency's stockpiles contain 250,000 blankets; 50,000 mattresses; 30,000 kitchen sets; 22,000 family tents; 17,000 stoves and other relief items. Additional quantities are also available in stockpiles in Kuwait and Iraq.