The increasing economic hardship of families caring for refugees in Lebanon has come into sharp focus in recent days. Over a million people have fled the conflict in Syria, including Palestinians from Syria and Lebanese returnees. Thousands of Syrian families and others living in flimsy shelters are enduring misery in the Lebanese mountains. Public services and infrastructure are struggling to cope.
With no end to Syria's crisis in sight, the financial, logistical and security burdens being shouldered by governments, communities and humanitarian organizations in response to the needs of the most vulnerable are becoming more acute by the day. Concerns about the costs are legitimate. However, anyone who is not, or no longer, taking part in fighting has an unalienable right to seek protection and safety.
"I am impressed by the response of the authorities and host communities despite limited resources. We appreciate the government's efforts to cope with such a huge influx and its consequences for the Lebanese people," said the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, at the end of his two-day visit to Lebanon. "We trust that despite new regulations on entry into Lebanon from Syria, and rising tensions, humanitarian cases will not face any hindrance as a result. This includes people with severe medical conditions particularly the wounded, children waiting to be reunited with their families, people with severe disabilities and other vulnerable people seeking protection."
In addition to meeting top officials in the country, Mr Maurer visited the Notre Dame hospital in Zghorta and the ICRC-run Weapon Traumatology Training Centre (WTTC) in Tripoli to meet patients and victims of recent violence. "The patients I met today have gone through a terrible ordeal. Some have lost limbs, some their sight, but all of them have kept their hope. We see it as our duty to help anyone wounded by violence and conflict, without discrimination. ICRC war surgery and rehabilitation make a real difference to these people's lives."
The ICRC has been present in Lebanon since 1967, and together with the Lebanese Red Cross carried out its humanitarian work throughout the civil war. The ICRC's current operation is growing rapidly, with 245 staff members and a total budget of 45 million Swiss francs. The ICRC is running several programmes in health, relief and cash assistance, water and sanitation, and reuniting separated families, in addition to visiting detainees. One of the most pressing issues remains the need to find out what happened to people who went missing during the civil war.
For further information, please contact:
Soaade Messoudi, ICRC Lebanon, tel: +961 71802876
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 23 or +41 79 447 37 26
Photos: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / I. Malla