A humanitarian expert from Weston Favell village has returned home after visiting Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Anne Street, who works for CAFOD, saw the appalling conditions that refugees are living in at a makeshift settlement of some 20 shelters, that she said were “cobbled together from plastic sheeting, flour sacks and canvas”.
The trip was in liaison with Caritas Lebanon, who have been providing food, healthcare, mattresses, blankets, clothes and household supplies to Syrian refugees.
Anne, who was in the Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria, said: “When we arrived we were greeted by a queue of Syrian refugees lining up for an emergency distribution of food, household supplies and hygiene kits.
“One of my colleagues, a trained water engineer, went off to look at the water supply and soon came back reporting the only source was a murky, shallow hand-dug well for irrigating the surrounding fields.”
Although there are a growing number of tented settlements, most of the one million estimated refugees who have fled Syria’s conflict are housed in rented accommodation, unfinished buildings or in lodgings with host families. This has caused a growing strain on the local economy and on the Lebanese people who have opened their homes to the refugees. There is now pressure on resources such as water and sanitation, lack of school places, health facilities and, most of all, jobs.
Anne said: “I met two young children: Assifa, aged 11 and her younger brother Alaa, aged 9, who had arrived at the camp three days before, having fled Syria in an arduous five day journey after their house was bombed. Their mother and three younger siblings – aged 8, 7 and 5 – were all killed in the bombardment.
“Clearly still in shock, the children talked about their school, the friends they had left behind and the mother they would never see again.”
Without a parent or guardian, the children are especially at risk. Assifa is under the watch of a distant relative who said he was trying to feed these extra mouths as well as his own family by finding agricultural work and buying and selling fruits and vegetables. But he said his income was not enough to buy food for himself and his pregnant wife and family.
Anne added: “The people of Northamptonshire gave generously to CAFOD’s £1.5 million Syria Crisis Appeal, which has enabled us to support our partners at the front-line of the refugee crisis. Their work is inspirational. The support they are able to offer is a lifeline to the refugees. But this is not a tenable situation. We need an immediate resolution to the conflict and a halt on the flow of refugees.
“At the moment there is no end in sight to conflict. The UK Government should stop talking about sending arms to Syria, and instead step up the pressure for peace negotiations as soon as possible.”
To give to CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Appeal you can go online at cafod.org.uk/syriacrisis or over the phone on