It’s been so cold in some parts of the Middle East this winter, it’s newsworthy. The most snow and cold in northern Iraq in 50 years, we’re told by our neighbors. The pipes in our office froze solid. So cold in parts of Syria, that displaced children who lived in tents lost their lives in accidents with heaters. So cold and snowy in the Beqaa Valley, Beirut, tents have collapsed under the weight.
“This winter has been very harsh, and without electricity to stay warm,” our colleague Sammy Ganama, Program Officer in Lebanon tells us. “Even people living in the city have been talking about how hard it is to stay warm. Imagine how much harder it is when you live in a tent. Your entire protection from the cold, wind, and rain is a few wooden poles and some plastic sheeting, with water constantly dripping into your home. It snows so much that many men cannot sleep for days when it snows, fearing the buildup of snow on top of the tent will collapse it, possibly harming their families. So they stay awake all night for days shoving the snow off the roof of the tent.”
They have every reason to worry. They see what happens to their neighbors who aren’t so diligent.
These men, refugees displaced from Syria by the civil war, staying up all night in the cold to protect their families—we know them. Their children are getting an education because our Preemptive Love community came alongside these families with monthly food packs, so they didn’t have to work to help feed their families. The economic crisis in Lebanon has brutalized their lives, and there is no way they could cope with the cold on their own.
“Lebanon hosts almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, with more than an estimated 400,000 residing in formal and informal settlements in the Beqaa Valley” Chelsea Sabri, Preemptive Love’s Relief Program Manager noted.
“The country has been facing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis since October 2019 that has made it harder for refugees to support themselves through these tough times. Individuals and families are falling deeper into poverty due to high inflation, rising food prices, and loss of income. The overall situation in the country has been further aggravated by the COVID-19 outbreak by reducing basic services including access to food and livelihood opportunities. With winter temperatures that plunge below zero, refugees remain afraid of the extremely cold weather, that causes icy water to flood their camps with no way to keep refugee children and adults warm,” Chelsea added.
As a community, we had to respond when some of our circle were suffering so much in the cold. For children living in these camps, we worked with partners to provide more than 3,000 warm winter coats. Their families received 1000 thick blankets (three per family), to help keep them warm at night. And we made sure that 100 widows, extra vulnerable members of this community, they received two blankets each.
Sammy tells us the kids “were all ecstatic to receive their brand new coats! I am grateful that our work allowed so many people to sleep warmer at night this cold, hard winter.”