Since Lebanon’s ministry of health declared a cholera outbreak on October 5, more than 1,400 suspected cases have been reported in the country, including 381 confirmed cases and 17 deaths as of October 31. The outbreak comes on the heels of a recent wave in Syria, where the epidemic claims over 20,000 suspected cases and 75 cholera-associated deaths since its start on September 10.
The highly contagious disease is now rapidly spreading across Lebanon and could have a catastrophic impact on people in the most vulnerable situations, as it can kill within hours if left untreated. With limited access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation, impoverished families are at extreme risk of falling ill.
Khadija is an elderly Syrian woman living with her family in a crowded informal settlement in the Beqaa valley. Where she lives, people only have around seven liters of water per person per week to use for personal hygiene, and prices of filtered drinking water are increasingly expensive. Like many, Khadija’s family is worried about this new disease. Although cholera is easily treatable in normal conditions, she says she cannot afford any kind of treatment, especially at a time when most families from the camp can only afford to eat once a day.
We are currently raising awareness among the families we serve through SMS campaigns and training our partners, and we are preparing to distribute hygiene kits to help the families decontaminate the water they use and protect themselves from the spread of the disease.
With the threat of cholera now on her mind as she anxiously prepares for winter, Khadija and her family recalled last winter with much pain:
“A part of us died last winter. We couldn’t afford wood or fuel for heating. We had to burn whatever was available, from nylon to shoes even. Any time it rained, water would leak from the roof. During the snowstorm, our roof collapsed under the weight of the snow”.
People in Lebanon and Syria are distressed about the coming winter season, as growing inflation has made all sources of heating (wood, fuel, or electricity) completely unaffordable – if even available – for more families than ever. Many families lack the most basic furniture that would help retain heat and keep them warm, like adequate clothing, carpets, mattresses, or blankets:
“We desperately need mattresses and blankets, as you can see we have none. My son and his wife only have two small blankets although they have two children and are expecting their third one. It is not enough to keep everyone warm”.
We have the capacity to help 10,000 households in Syria and Lebanon stay warmer this winter through the provision of blankets, mattresses, carpets, winter clothes, tarps, and vouchers for heating fuel. To reach these families, we need all the help we can get.
Our only hope during these dark times is in God, and the way our church partners continue to love and care for those in vulnerable situations around them inspires and encourages us to keep hoping. At the lowest point during last winter’s snowstorm, members of our partner church in the area were the only people the families in the camp thought to call for help. When we asked them why, they replied:
“There is no one else on earth helping us. We contacted Mazen from the church because he had already been helping us with food boxes. There is no one like him. He gives us milk and diapers when available and he got beanies and jackets for the children last winter. He also came to help us fix our roofs and brought tarps in the middle of the snowstorm”.
Such testimonies remind us of why we work through local church partners. For when they love their neighbors like that, they remind them that they are neither alone nor forgotten and that God has not abandoned them.
Today, we ask for your help to protect families from the spread of cholera and the harshness of winter through offering funding for hygiene kits and winter items like mattresses, blankets, fuel for heating, carpets and tarps, or winter clothes.
Just as importantly, we need your prayers. Please pray for better and easier days ahead when everyone can live with dignity again. Pray for strength and resilience for people in vulnerable situations, and for our team and local partners that we would not grow discouraged by the extent of the needs.
We also pray for all of you who support our efforts and remind us of God’s faithfulness and provision in these times of need.
May God bless you and your loved ones richly!