Feature: lack of food, medicine, Syrian refugees in Lebanon forced to look for new sheltersby Salah Takieddine

September 1, 2015 5:32 am 

BEIRUT, Aug. 30 — Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and particularly those who are living in the northern parts of the country, are facing even harder times as the non-governmental agencies have either stopped or slashed their food support as the aid money is quickly running dry.

Being short of funds, medical services for the refugees have also come to a near-complete halt.

The UN Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has decided recently to cut short its services and to provide medical treatment only for emergency cases.

Already, the refugees have raised their voices to criticize the UN agency, saying the decision is "non logical" and "arbitrary."

Khaled el-Danash, a Syrian activist, told Xinhua that only a few months ago, another UN agency, the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) called off its agreements with local dispensaries, which used to receive the Syrian refugees.

He said the UN body now needs to review all medical cases in its Tripoli office before issuing approval.

However, what has turned the situation even worse was the closing of the Qatari Health Center in the Akkar district. The Qatari-sponsored facility was established two years ago. It used to offer health care to the Syrian refugees, such as free medications, milk, baby's diapers. So far, no one knows why it was closed.

Issam Doueiry is the deputy head of of Akkar's largest town of Wadi Khaled. He told Xinhua that the decision to close down the health center would not only have severe repercussions on the health situations of the Syrian refugees, but would also affect the local hosting community that already has problems in providing health care for the children and elderly due to the harsh economic situation in the country.

He also expressed his fears for a complete breakdown of the health care system and the spread of deadly diseases, adding that the country's health centers have already been overburdened in treating its own people.

Hunger and thirst, as well as crumbling medical serives have forced the displaced Syrians to move on to other possible shelters.

The port in the city of Tripoli has witnessed an unprecedented activity on the maritime line to Turkey, as about 2500 passengers are boarding the ships sailing to Turkey daily and most of the passengers are Syrian refugees who are using the Turkish ports as a transit point to Europe, as explained Director of Tripoli port Ahmad Tamer to Xinhua.

According to the port official, every day, a total of seven ships sail from Tripoli to the Turkish port of Mersin, and they are all packed with Syrian refugees.

The sea route linking Lebanon and Turkey was launched five years ago, and not much traffic was observed these days, he said, adding that since last year, the demand has started to witness a huge rise because of the Syrians.

"We are studying the possibility of adding two more daily ships because of the rising demand, as some 2500 Syrian refugees are leaving Lebanon daily and those who have a return ticket are numbered," he added.

Lebanese security sources told Xinhua that after the Syrians bound for Europe arrive in Turkey, many would be received by locals and gang members, who would arrange for them their trespassing into Europe, adding that the trip would cost each person some 3000 U.S. dollars.

The security sources revealed that the Lebanese authorities seized two weeks ago a boat sailing next to the Tripoli shores with Syrian nationals and Palestinians on board, saying they were trying to get into Greece illegally.

According to the UNHCR, there are about 1.2 million Syrians who took refuge in Lebanon since the start of the country's social unrest in 2011, which has later turned into a full-blown civil war.

The Lebanese government started applying strict measures on its border crossing points with Syria, limiting the entry of Syrian nationals in an effort to curb the influx of refugees. (PNA/Xinhua)



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