Juriya Ramadan wades through the murky, ankle-deep water that flooded her shelter in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

Carrying her barefooted son, she puts him down on a plywood platform balanced above the waterline, before wrapping him in a blanket and surveying the damage.

“The water inside the tent is half a metre. We cannot wear any socks or shoes. It’s all water,” the 34-year-old Syrian refugee explains.

A wood-burning stove – cold and useless with no dry fuel to be found – protrudes like an island from the brown sea of water in the shelter’s main room. Juriya splashes around picking up floating bits of waterlogged wood and piles them on the stove.

“People are sick. Everywhere there is water. We cannot sleep at night. It has been three days like this,” she says.

“All night we sit and watch the kids and we cannot do anything for them. Their situation is very bad.”

Juriya holds her son inside her flooded shelter in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. © UNHCR/D. Ibarra Sanchez

In January, high winds, torrential rain and freezing temperatures brought by Storm Norma led to flooding in towns and settlements across Lebanon, which hosts nearly 950,000 Syrian refugees.

Close to 24,000 people across 626 sites were affected by the extreme weather. Heavy rainfall damaged shelters and completely flooded settlements, forcing hundreds of Syrians to abandon their homes. Many families lost their mattresses, blankets, food and clothing to the floods.

Throughout Dalhamiya settlement where Juriya lives, residents worked to unblock drains and shift the sewage-tainted water that has formed canals in the narrow alleyways between shelters.

But a week later, heavy snowfalls and floods caused by Storm Miriam brought even more devastation to the makeshift settlements.

 

UNHCR rushed to assess the damage and distributed emergency relief items including new mattresses, blankets, winter clothes and drainage kits to the worst-affected families.

Across Lebanon, UNHCR is assisting 166,000 vulnerable Syrian refugee families as part of its regional winter assistance program.

Thanks to Australian donors, support includes distributions of plastic sheeting and wooden poles to help families protect their shelters from the elements, as well as cash assistance to cover additional expenses during winter such as fuel for heating, medicine and clothes.

But more help is urgently needed to reach everyone in need.

“The mattresses and the duvets got wet, we didn’t sleep all night,” says 60-year-old Amina Al Darak, perched on a damp mattress just centimetres above the water that has filled every corner of her shelter.

“I had to put blankets on wooden boards and lie there. We’ve never experienced such a situation before.”

Across Lebanon, UNHCR rushed emergency items including blankets and mattresses to families, but more help is urgently needed. © UNHCR/D. Ibarra Sanchez

You can help refugee families survive the freezing cold 
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