As we are writing this article, temperatures in Lebanon are unusually low for the month of March and snow is still expected to fall on many parts of the country.
This winter, temperatures reached new lows, down to -9°C (16°F) at times in densely populated areas like the Beqaa valley. Several storms hit the region and snowfall was observed multiple times, starting at an altitude of 350 meters above sea level.
This harsh weather put unprecedented pressure on people living in highly vulnerable environments, like poorly insulated shelters or tents, many of which collapsed under the weight of the snow.
The ever-deteriorating economic situation in both Lebanon and Syria caused the prices of energy sources for heating – diesel, gas, electricity, wood – to skyrocket.
Fuel prices have risen more than 10 times in a year, following the progressive lifting of fuel subsidies without any alternative support. The price of diesel and gas, used for heating, has also spiked.
Electricity prices are directly correlated as fuel is the main energy source to run public generators, as well as private generators that supplement the state’s atrocious coverage – down to no more than two hours a day in most parts of the country.
These skyrocketing prices left many families unable to heat themselves. Aziz, a Syrian father of four in Lebanon, confirms:
“Winter was very harsh, more than the previous years. We couldn’t afford heating fuel or firewood and heating ourselves was a major issue this season. When it got really bad because of the snowstorms, some neighbors gave us used clothes to burn. Whatever we had that was used, like shoes and even plastic, we had to put it in the heater to give us a bit of warmth. It was the first year we had to resort to something like that.“
To try and meet these increasing needs, we provided our local partners in Lebanon and Syria with winter items to distribute to the families they know are living in situations of extreme vulnerability.
They were able to reach over 8,000 families with vouchers for heating fuel, electric heaters, blankets, mattresses, carpets, tarps, jackets, scarves, boots, and beanies, helping them stay warmer.
As heartbreaking as it can be to see the extent of the needs, we remain encouraged to see that the love and care our partners show to these families makes a big difference in their lives.
Mazen, a partner representative in the Beqaa valley, shared his impressions with us:
For some people, the situation is terrible, believe me. It is heartbreaking and I feel very burdened. At the same time, it is hard to explain the amount of joy of the people when we visit them and help them. It really makes a big difference for the people. There is joy in their eyes, that someone would come to them and listen to them. We thank God for you and for everyone who is helping in a way or another. May the Lord provide for the needs of the people. May He keep them warm.
L’Orient Today, This is why Lebanon is experiencing a polar March, 16 March 2022
The new humanitarian, Why Lebanon needs renewable energy, 11 November 2021