Snowstorm hits the Bekaa Valley

29 Jan 2015   |   Blog   |   Syria   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  Syria, Lebanon, winter, Refugees   |   No comments

Refugee clears snow

Families gather all in one room—where there is a heater—sometimes 10 people in a small room
Sr Micheline

A refugee with Sr Micheline

Last October, Suzy McIntyre travelled to Lebanon to visit Syrian refugees who have been facing a number of struggles after being displaced by the 4 year war. Now, these same refugees face another challenge – freezing weather conditions.

By Suzy McIntyre, Humanitarian Programs Coordinator

Last Sunday evening, I received an email just before midnight from our Caritas partner, Michelle Ryan of CRS (Caritas USA), in the Middle East.

These few lines instantly caught my attention: “There are big winter storms in the region, which I imagine you have read about. I'll send you some photos soon of our response with the Sisters in the Bekaa Valley. I think we all wish we could get on a plane to the warmth in Australia now!”

Looking at photos from the Bekaa Valley blanketed in heavy white snow and realising the severity of the weather conditions, my attention shifted immediately to the refugees who had fled to Lebanon from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

The Bekaa Valley is home to almost 250,000 refugees living in more than 850 informal settlements. Their homes are made of tarpaulins with no proper heating, no running water and no sanitation facilities. No doubt they are uncomfortable in warm weather; but they are unbearable in freezing cold conditions. This year, the snow storms have been particularly harsh and unkind to those in the Valley.

Sr Micheline Lattouf, who runs the centre of the Good Shepherd Sisters in the Bekaa Valley, explained “Some roads are blocked and the camps are full of snow. Families gather all in one room—where there is a heater—sometimes 10 people in a small room”.

"Refugees are locked inside their tents—they can't leave them," Sr Micheline continues. "In the camps, latrines are outside the tents and since it's so cold, people can't use them anymore and this—in the long run—might lead to hygiene and sanitation problems."

Despite these challenges, Sr Micheline continues to visit the refugees – sunshine or snowstorm.

Through the generosity of our supporters, Caritas Australia has been helping the Good Shepherd Sisters in the Bekaa Valley reach out to the families. The program with the Sisters works with children affected by the conflict to heal from the trauma of what they have experienced. Now the Sisters are reaching out to families in other ways; through the distribution of critical shelter materials, food, blankets and heaters.

Support the response by donating to the Middle East Crisis Appeal »

The Good Shepherd Sisters have been running a centre in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon which provides a safe space for Syrian refugee children to play, receive an education, and access counselling to help them overcome the trauma they have exprerienced. Learn more about the program:

Back to blog