December 14, 2013

Seriously Cold


As cold as it gets in Beirut; hail in Ashrafiyeh last night

 It’s been seriously cold these last few days. Not cold by Dutch standards, but for us (as in Lebanese) this is as cold as it gets. 10 degrees outside (that’s what my thermometer says) and I doubt it is much warmer inside; most Lebanese houses are not equipped for cold weather. I live on a rooftop, and have no central heating system. But I am not complaining anymore.

People bringing in matrasses with the help of volunteers
 
Bags and bags of clothing
 
That is because of the nearly one million Syrian refugees that have now flocked to Lebanon, most live in conditions that are mind-boggling. Spread throughout Lebanon, the majority in the north of the country and the Beqaa Valley, over more than 250 makeshift camps, they live in tents, many of them homemade, as the authorities just do not have the resources to provide for all of them. They do not have indoor-plumbing and no proper heating systems; some of them are placed in areas that are prone to flooding, and they do not have any money themselves to organize themselves any better. No furniture, probably no electricity either for most of them, and then to camp outside, with kids, in this weather, is, as I said, mind-boggling.

 

Volunteers received the goods
 
But the cold front these past three days (it hailed in Ashrafiya last night!) has definitely helped them in the sense that people suddenly realize they have to do something. If it is cold in your house, than how cold must it be in a tent?
 
Matrasses and blankets went to War Child Holland
The clothes go to Sawa for Syria
There’s loads of initiatives all over town, for blankets, mattresses, clothes and money donations and when I dropped off the family’s clothes that have become too small, obsolete or out of fashion (imagine the luxury of that statement!) on a parking lot near Biel for War Child Holland and  Sawa for Syria, I was pleasantly surprised to see a steady stream of people carrying bags and bags of goods in. Plenty of volunteers were sorting the bags into bins labeled with ‘men’, ‘boys’, ‘shoes’ and the like. They will all be brought to the makeshift camps.

 
It’s not going to help these refugees on the long run; politics is going to have to solve that problem. But for the meantime, it seems there will be some relief.

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