|Syrian refugees plead for warm shelter amid snow storm
Syrian refugee Faisal looks down at the muddy floor of his tent in a field in eastern Lebanon as it is battered by a snowstorm.
“I'd rather die a million times than live through this humiliation,'' the 48-year-old says bitterly.
“Nobody else has had to go through what's happening to us. Every country is plotting against us, they're all traitors,'' Faisal rages, his head wrapped in a scarf, AFP reports.
In the Saadnayel area in Lebanon, as elsewhere in Lebanon where informal tented camps have sprouted to house families fleeing the carnage in neighboring Syria, Syrians who have survived the war are now battling the forces of nature.
The father of four from Idlib in northwestern Syria felt he was speaking for most of his compatriots who feel they have been abandoned by the international community.
More than 835,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, although the real number is thought to total more than one million.
Thousands get by in makeshift camps, in shelters made of little more than plastic sheeting nailed to wooden frames. Others live in unfinished buildings.
More than 500 refugees live in Faisal's camp, and few have more than rudimentary heating to fend off the chill of the storm dubbed “Alexa'' that is battering Lebanon.
“I hate the cold,'' says Sakr, 13, swathed in a hooded coat.
“When it snows, the meltwater becomes mud inside the tents, which collapse on our heads because of the weight of snow.''
Other children, some with no hats at all, sneeze and rub frozen hands together, their shoes caked in mud.
“Give us something to keep us warm,'' they ask a group of journalists.
At Arsal, also in eastern Lebanon and some eight kilometers from the border with Syria, the tents were draped in snow Wednesday as the temperature hovered just above freezing.
At night, however, in the area known for supporting the armed opposition battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces, the temperature drops to four below.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Lebanese army have been handing out thermal blankets and money for heating fuel.
Despite such efforts, there are major concerns about the fate of refugees living in more than 200 makeshift camps in northern and eastern Lebanon.
“We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard,'' said UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled.
The UNHCR has prepared stockpiles of items including plastic sheeting, floor mats, blankets and mattresses to help refugees whose shelters might be flooded or destroyed by the storm.