News / Middle East

Syrians Take Refuge in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

A young Syrian boy looks apprehensive as he awaits a vaccination in Arsal, Lebanon, Sept. 29, 2012. (VOA/J. Neumann)
A young Syrian boy looks apprehensive as he awaits a vaccination in Arsal, Lebanon, Sept. 29, 2012. (VOA/J. Neumann)
Jeff Neumann
As refugees continue streaming out of Syria to escape the violence of the civil war, tens of thousands of them are taking shelter in Lebanon, many in towns like this one near the frontier in the Bekaa Valley.

On a recent day, lines of laundry are draped across the school playground and aid workers mingle with children and their parents in the hallways of nearby buildings. The main topic of conversation for most is where their next meal is coming from and where they might be living in the coming weeks.
 
Numbers of Syrian Refugees, by Country

  • Turkey: 138,401
  • Lebanon: 133,634
  • Jordan: 123,747  
  • Iraq: 60,307

Source: UNHCR
The latest United Nations figures estimate the overall number of Syrian refugees at more than 250,000, and of those, more than 70,000 are believed to be living in Lebanon. The number here is uncertain because many are afraid to register with official agencies out of fear of retribution due to the close ties between the governments in Damascus and Beirut.

Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon face a number of challenges. Almost weekly, Syrian troops make brief cross-border incursions into Lebanon.  Syrian Army units frequently shell Lebanese territory, killing dozens, mainly Lebanese civilians but Syrian refugees as well. This town, just under 10 kilometers from the Syrian frontier, has even seen Syrian air force attacks nearby.

Despite the pressure from Syria, the refugees have been getting along well - so far - with their new Lebanese neighbors. Some families in Arsal have even opened their homes to refugees.

The latest arrivals, however, are putting a strain on local resources. The cost of living has soared in recent months and that could lead to friction.

Lebanon has a troubled history with refugees. Its long and traumatic civil war was in part brought on by Palestinian militants using Lebanon as a base for attacks against Israel and rival Lebanese militias. Many Lebanese fear renewed violence as the civil war in Syria has already played out in bloody outbursts in Lebanese cities and border areas this year.

Refugees strain resources

The head of the Arsal municipality, Ali al-Hujairi, says his town cannot handle many more arrivals and that the ones already living here have strained its limited resources. Al-Hujairi also concedes that Free Syrian Army rebel fighters are taking shelter in the town.
 
"I cannot hide the fact that [the refugees] support the revolution,” he said. “Some of them go to fight, too. All of Arsal supports the revolution."

Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in the Syrian town of Qusair, sit at a temporary home, in the hillside town of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, March 5, 2012.Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in the Syrian town of Qusair, sit at a temporary home, in the hillside town of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, March 5, 2012.
x
Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in the Syrian town of Qusair, sit at a temporary home, in the hillside town of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, March 5, 2012.
Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in the Syrian town of Qusair, sit at a temporary home, in the hillside town of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, March 5, 2012.
​The Lebanese government had previously helped with medical care for Syrians through the High Relief Commission, run through the office of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. But in August, it announced that state funds had run out. The Cabinet is still debating a new budget, meaning an influx of new funds will be delayed further, if approved at all.

A worker from the international aid group, Médecins Sans Frontières, described the emotional state of the refugees as "desperate," saying roughly 30 percent of the displaced Syrians here suffer from anxiety, depression and psychosomatic disorders.
 
"The majority of the time, from what we are seeing, they don't feel secure after fleeing Syria," said the aid worker, who asked not to be named.
 
About 85 percent of secondary health care in the Bekaa region is being covered by the Qatari Red Crescent, according to figures provided by the Beirut office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
 
Recently, Médecins Sans Frontières workers were busy vaccinating children in one of the Arsal schools serving as a temporary home for displaced Syrians. A young boy named Mohammed cried as he waited with his mother for a vaccination at the school in Arsal: "He used to be named Bashar," after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, his mother said with a wide grin.

A father living with his wife and five young children in an unfinished home in Arsal said he had not been able to work since arriving several months ago. His story is not unusual.

The little money that most refugees carried out with them is completely gone or running out. Assistance from aid groups and local residents is limited.
 
As one example, a Médecins Sans Frontières report issued last month said, "Those living in the Bekaa Valley appear to have twice as much access to drinking water [as in other areas], meaning it is likely they purchase it, adding burden to already limited finances."

Living conditions stressful

Some displaced families set up tent camps in the yards of sympathetic Lebanese. Others moved into unfinished buildings and construction sites.  But the living conditions in many locations are dire, and with the onset of cooler weather fast approaching, open-air shelters in this town at the foot of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range will offer little protection from the elements.

For now, the people of Arsal are doing what they can. The municipality chief, al-Hujairi, warns of a desperate situation that is bound to get worse. He notes that the surrounding villages are primarily Shiite Muslim and support the Assad regime, making it nearly impossible for refugees to leave town. When they do, they are frequently attacked.
 
"They [the refugees] have not stopped coming across, and we receive no help from the Lebanese government," al-Hujairi said. "Of course we will help all of them, but how many more can we take?"

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Muhd Nur Alalawi from: Nigeria
October 09, 2012 7:36 AM
The Syrians should blame themselves for their predicament because they call for it, their government is doing well for them but being ungrateful people they decided to revolt aginst their leaders for just no reason.

Therefore what ever happened to you I believe you people deserve it, so please down your arms and embrace dialogue thats the best way for you,

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs