Washington, DC (BWA)--More than 5,500 Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon received assistance over the past several months from Baptists, coordinated by the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) and the Rahbe Baptist Church.
Syria has been hit by a series of protests against the government and violent crackdown by military and security forces since January of this year. Several thousand protestors were reportedly killed.
Almost US$100,000 were received and spent with funding coming from Baptist World Aid, German Baptist Aid, Canadian Baptist Ministries, BMS World Mission (United Kingdom), and American Baptist Churches USA. Baptists were the first to offer aid to several families who said they had left Syria months earlier, though some indicated they received aid from a Qatari NGO.
LSESD helped to provide food, hygiene kits, and medical supplies. "LSESD has decided to focus on a few issues that fill gaps being left by other organizations," the Baptist group reported. "It is important to support those who are opening up their homes and using their already-scarce resources to help the refugees.... This will help decrease 'host-fatigue' and the need to move refugees to tented camps or communal living options."
"The projects faced significant challenges right from the beginning," the LSESD reported. "The situation with the Syrian refugees has been very fluid....The new government in Lebanon was not favorable to refugees entering and staying in Lebanon."
In total 615 refugee families and 248 Lebanese families have been helped.
There were no firm figures regarding the number of refugees entering Lebanon, which complicated efforts to assist. "Over the course of the response, refugees have continued to arrive at any given time, while others have returned to Syria." In addition, "a significant number of the refugees are not self-identifying and registering, fearing that information about their identity will be used against them."
Many refugees live in tenuous situations. Five families lived in an unfurnished dwelling; two other families lived in another house that was yet to be furnished. One house had 36 refugees as occupants, some of whom decided to return to Syria. Several families lived in tents, with one of those families having three children with disabilities. Thirty two persons had been living inside a school for at least three months.
However, several Lebanese families offered shelters within their homes.
A number of displaced persons suffered from anemia, diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, high blood pressure and other ailments, and needed medical attention. Pregnant women were among those who traveled across the border into Lebanon.
Some Syrian families tell of their ordeal. A son was hospitalized in Lebanon after he was shot while protecting his mother and younger sister. One woman had not heard news of her husband since he was jailed. Others heard that their houses were broken into or destroyed, and believed they had nothing to return to in Syria.
Many refugees came from areas close to the Lebanese border or in western Syria, such as Heet, Hama and Homs, scenes of some of the largest protests, as well as Tel Kelakh, which was reportedly shelled by the Syrian army in May, killing several dozen persons.
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