For the families we help serve, spring comes with the relief to have made it through one more harsh winter. In Lebanon and Syria, temperatures went down to 20°F this winter, with heavy rain, storms, and shortages of electricity and diesel for heating. Thanks to your generosity and the hard work of our local partners, we were able to distribute much needed winter items to about 3,600 families.
A winter unlike any others
This winter, temperatures dropped down to 20°F at times, and several storms hit Lebanon and Syria. But what made this winter even more difficult to bear for the most vulnerable was the deteriorating economies of both Lebanon and Syria, and the substantial increase in prices of food and consumer goods.
Since mass anti-government protests began in October 2019 in Lebanon, triggering an unprecedented and long-simmering economic and financial crisis, hundreds of restaurants and companies have closed, and thousands of people have lost their job or suffered pay cuts. The World Bank estimates that a minimum of 40% of the Lebanese population now live under the poverty line. Meanwhile, the Lebanese pound has lost 50 percent of its value and prices of food and consumer goods have increased substantially. These staggering price increases and reductions in purchasing power have the greatest negative impact on Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese, many of whom already have significant debt.
The crisis in Lebanon also had serious repercussions on the already ailing Syrian currency and economy. The dollar value soared from 625 in late August to 1,050 Syrian pounds in early January 2020. The new slide of the Syrian pound had a catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable families, who suffered severe shortages of diesel for heating and gas for cooking, as well as electricity.
Inadequate shelter, lack of protection
The families we serve live in inadequate shelters which leave them very exposed to the harsh winter weather. Najwa and her husband have two daughters and a son. They escaped their village in north-east Syria shortly after ISIS took control of it. They have been living for four years in a small tent in the Bekaa valley with another family of five.
The winter is especially hard on us, because of the harsh weather and because there is no work at all. Anytime it rains we have water inside the tent. During winter, we really suffer from the cold. The children are freezing.
Father Nicholas, a priest we work with in Syria, serves in an area that is about 3,500 ft (1,000 m) in elevation. He tells us that the local population and the many families displaced there have no means to protect themselves from the winter weather, which is usually very long, cold, and snowy.
Some warmth in the middle of the cold
This winter, thanks to the hard work of our local partners, we have been able to help about 3,600 families in Lebanon and Syria stay warm. We distributed winter items such as blankets, mattresses, heaters and stoves, and vouchers for heating fuel.
Through Father Nicholas‘ church alone, we were able to reach 700 vulnerable households in south-west Syria with blankets and electric heaters. Despite the challenges, he says the joy he sees in the eyes of the people he helps is the only reward he needs.
Brother Mazen is himself a Syrian refugee in Lebanon and serves in the relief team of one of our partner churches in the Bekaa valley. He says that the winter assistance brings much more than physical warmth to the people.
We provide material support on one hand, and on the other hand we give them our love. It is much more than just providing some winter items. We visit them often, we share coffee or tea, we take time to ask about their situation and listen to them, we check up on them by phone, and of course we pray for them.