When Winter Storms and Refugee Camps Meet

What does your winter look like?

When posed this question, I conjure up images in my mind of warm blankets, hot chocolate stacked with mini marshmallows, and a warm fire radiating its embers in a steady, comforting manner throughout the house.

When it comes to the cold, worry has never plagued me.

Winter in Lebanon

For refugees in Lebanon, winter conjures up much different images.

In January 2019, harsh winter storms, namely two dubbed Norma and Miriam by Lebanese meteorologists, struck Lebanon with unparalleled force.

In a country home to 1.5 million Syrian refugees, not to mention nearly half a million registered Palestinian refugees, it is difficult to go far in Lebanon without spotting many camps and settlements.

These settlements, however, are not equipped to handle winter storms. Now, over 70,000 Syrian refugees, nearly 40,000 of whom are children, are at risk.

The tents in the settlements—small tents that large families occupy—are made of flimsy material. When the tents are flooded by cause of harsh winter storms, the little that these refugees can call their own is destroyed. They are left without mattresses, blankets, food, and clothing.

To Walk a Mile

I always aim to empathize, but it seems an impossible feat to try and place myself in the refugees’ worn shoes. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to fully comprehend what it would feel like to lose almost all my belongings, to have to walk away from my home to a country foreign to me.

What must it feel like to make a nearly impossible journey on foot in broken-down shoes, to be met with the site of masses of flimsy white tents, one of which I will have to somehow call home?

What must it be like to try and make a home for myself in a tent, sleeping side by side with the family I have left? What must it be like to feel the first drops of the cold, bullet-like, icy rain? Dryness becomes a foreign concept; I have a wet mattress, a flooded ground, and the little belongings that, for a fleeting moment I was able to call my own, are now damaged beyond repair. 

A Human Issue

The deception ingrained in us is that these refugees will fall under someone else’s responsible jurisdiction. That thinking is not only irresponsible, but dangerous. To be human means to acknowledge the shared responsibility we have towards one another.

When one human or one group suffers, it is our moral obligation to do what we can to lend a helping hand. It is helping hands, after all, that humans can find hope in.

Islamic Relief USA is working to provide winter relief to refugees and vulnerable people in Lebanon. Every donation helps.

Article written by:

Rula is a Content Developer at Islamic Relief USA. Want to feature your voice on our blog? We'd love to hear from you! Send us a message at relieflab@irusa.org.