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Syria's “double refugees” face overcrowding and hardship in Lebanon

2 April 2013 - DEC reaches needs of Palestinian refugees, who risk missing out on vital help.

Palestinians who have fled the violence in Syria are facing overcrowding, poor shelter and hardship in Lebanon, aid agencies from the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee said today.

33,000 Palestinians have fled to neighbouring Lebanon, mostly to pre-existing camps for Palestinian refugees or areas close by, which have become hugely overcrowded.
In Beddawi, for example, in northern Lebanon, the numbers of new Palestinian refugees from Syria has seen the population increase by one-fifth.

The only UN agency mandated to support Palestinian refugees is the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA.  However, their resources are stretched and the needs are growing.  The work of DEC agencies is helping to complement their work and support Palestinian refugees who might otherwise not get the help they require.    

Oliver Pearce, Christian Aid's Middle East Programme Manager said: 'The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very stretched in terms of infrastructure and capacity to support new arrivals and UNRWA doesn't have sufficient funding to meet all their needs.  

'Camps are overcrowded with as many as 15 people living in one room. Many are ill and malnourished. Inflation and the lack of jobs means refugees can't afford to eat properly, children are facing years out of education' he added.

The accommodation in the camps is also very poor. UNRWA has said that over 20 percent of homes that Palestinian families are living in are not fit to live in, as many lack walls, roofs, windows or toilet facilities; with that figure rising to 42% in Tyre.

In other camps, such as Shatila, in Beirut, many people do not have water or electricity in their homes and there are fears that increased pressure on the water systems could lead to water shortages and hygiene problems as summer approaches.

Although the established Palestinian community in Lebanon is helping to support and host the latest refugees from Syria, they are among the poorest and most vulnerable group themselves. Palestinians are not permitted to work in many professions in Lebanon, which means they often rely on low-paid casual labour to survive.

Local organisations are working to ensure that refugees who can't access official support are being looked after. Christian Aid and Oxfam partner, Association Najdeh, which had been working with Palestinian communities in Lebanon before the Syrian conflict, are now providing support to more than 3,500 Palestinian refugees from Syria, including mattresses, food, counselling and education for children.

Other Oxfam-funded partners, the Palestinian Arab Women’s League, the National Association for Vocational Training and Social Services, the Popular Aid for Relief and Development, and the Children of Al Jaleel Centre, as well as Association Najdeh, have collectively supported almost 25,000 people with mattresses, blankets, pillows, hygiene kits and clothing.

‘Palestinians who’ve recently fled their homes in Syria have become double refugees’, said Francis Lacasse, Oxfam’s Syria crisis response manager. 

‘They’re highly vulnerable, and many are in danger of falling through the aid safety net and not getting the help they urgently need.’

Another DEC member, Islamic Relief supports around 2000 Palestinian refugees every month, in Ein El Hillweh and Mieh Mieh camps, near Sidon in Lebanon.  The help has included food parcels, hygiene kits, baby kits, baby milk, kitchen kits and blankets.

DEC member World Vision also provides support to Palestinian refugees from Syria.

To make a donation to the DEC Syria Crisis Appeal visit www.dec.co.uk, call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 90, donate over the counter at any high street a bank or post office, or send a cheque. 

You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 7000.

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Notes to editors:

UNRWA was set up  to provide help for Palestinians displaced following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The DEC brings 14 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.

The majority of the DEC agencies are supporting work inside Syria, mostly through partner agencies.  All of our members will respond in Syria and the region. To make a postal donation, make cheques payable to 'DEC' and mail to 'PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA'.

Donations can be made at any high street bank and at Post Office counters. To donate £5 by text, send the word SUPPORT to 70000.  The full £5 will go to the DEC Syria Crisis Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have bill payer's permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.

Media Contacts: 020 7387 0200 or 07930 999 014 (out of hours)

Donations can be made at www.dec.org.uk or 0370 60 60 900