Snowstorm in Lebanon beginning of winter misery for thousands of Syrian refugees

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Oxfam appeal to help refugees more important than ever 

The severe snowstorm this week in Lebanon is just the beginning of the winter misery for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees struggling to combat the bitterly cold and wet conditions.

Oxfam Canada's ongoing Syrian refugee crisis appeal is now more urgent than ever – to help families affected by the Syria Crisis get through the harsh winter months – and beyond.

Many people are only wearing the thin summer clothes they fled from Syria in and those living in tents are sleeping on just a bare mat or thin mattress on the cold winter ground. Flimsy makeshift tents are prone to flooding and are likely to collapse under the weight of snow.

“As Canadians, we understand how life becomes harder under winter conditions," said Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada. "For refugees without proper shelter, clothing or nutrition – a simple cough can become life threatening. Children are particularly vulnerable. Poor sanitation facilities also mean that sewage can spread disease."  

Since last winter the number of refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries has soared to four times the size it was a year ago. In Lebanon, the refugee population has risen from 100,000 in December 2012 to nearly 1m now. Many of those families are living in areas prone to harsh winter conditions. Nearly 65 per cent of the refugee population have settled in North Lebanon and Bekaa Valley, which can experience snow and bitterly cold temperatures. 

In Jordan, where more than 550,000 Syrians have been registered, 80 per cent of the refugee population is living in the host community and the majority is in cramped, poor-quality rented accommodation as well as in tents and temporary shelters.

Oxfam will soon start the distribution of special winter kits in Jordan, which will provide a vital lifeline during the cold months. The kits going to people living in flats will include blankets, gas heaters and refill for four months; and those living in tents will receive blankets and plastic sheeting to help protect the tents from the rain and snow. In Lebanon, in addition to winter kits, cash assistance or vouchers will also be distributed. But more cash is needed so that the response can be stepped up.

"The people of Syria need a political solution to this massive crisis so they can start to rebuild their lives," said Fox. "But mothers also need urgent assistance to ensure their families can survive the winter. Canadians have been incredibly generous in giving to the Philippines appeal, and we now ask them to extend this generosity to the people and children of Syria". 

Oxfam and other agencies are also calling on the international community to show its support for the generosity of the host governments whose health infrastructures are being over-stretched. 

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For more information:

Melanie Gallant
Media Relations
Oxfam Canada



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