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Lana Asfour

Unprotected and cold: Snowstorm Huda claims lives among displaced

Date of publication: 13 January, 2015

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Watch our special report on the plight faced by the region's most vulnerable people through the harsh winter weather.

Snowstorms have hit the Middle East, creating freezing conditions and fatalities among Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon as well as the homeless in Gaza, displaced by Israel's assault in July-August 2014.

With more than three million registered refugees in the region and 6.5 million internally displaced, the Syrian conflict has created one of the world's largest refugee populations, and its fastest growing.

Even without the current sub-zero temperatures, the

     The international community has pledged large sums to help, but only a fraction of the promised cash has actually arrived.

refugees barely have enough food, warm blankets or fuel for heaters and cooking, due to recent reductions in UNHCR supplies and assistance.

Syrian refugees in the Atmeh refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border have started a hunger strike campaign to protest against the conditions they are facing, while demanding an increase in food and medical assistance. 

In Lebanon, which hosts more than a million Syrian refugees despite only having an indigenous population of around four million, there is intense strain on economic, social, educational and medical services.

Most of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living in the Beqaa valley, in half-constructed buildings, disused garages, makeshift shelfters and tents in vacant lots and open fields.

The UNHCR is distributing emergency winter food packages, fuel vouchers, blankets and stoves, but the supplies are not enough. The international community pledged large sums to help with the immediate crisis, but only a fraction of the promised cash has actually arrived.

Without enough supplies or money to deal with immediate emergencies, there is barely any investment in longer-term infrastructure projects that could help host countries take the intense strain of the refugee problem.

Gaza, meanwhile, suffers from the damage wrought by successive Israeli assaults over the past years as well as a strict isolation imposed by its neighbours Israel and Egypt. The last, and most damaging assault came last year and left more than 100,000 homeless.

There too, international pledges to rebuild the battered strip of land have failed to materialise, in part because of stringent Israeli security requirments, in part because of a lacklustre international - in particular regional - effort to force the issue.

Watch the video report above by al-Araby al-Jadeed's Claudia Mateus for more on the facts and figures on the winter crisis facing the refugees.

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