BEIRUT: Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour announced the formation of a collaborative guiding committee with international organizations to coordinate aid efforts to Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Abu Faour made the announcement after a meeting with representatives of international organizations and other figures involved in aid distribution. Particular emphasis was placed on readying makeshift camps and refugee communities for the winter.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the total number of Syrians assisted by UNHCR in Lebanon now stands at more than 830,000. The Lebanese government estimates that there are in excess of 1 million Syrians in the country.
Abu Faour noted that tremendous effort had been made during the past two years to expand international aid so that it would also reach Lebanese host communities. Headway was finally being made, he said.
“I hope that we will be able to finalize a list of priorities of the needs of the Lebanese host communities across the countries as soon as possible,” he said.
The international community, organizations involved and donor countries have pushed for aid to get to burdened communities, he said. “What is left is to find the necessary mechanisms by the Lebanese government. ... Things are still at their beginnings but progressing in a positive and promising manner.”
The guiding committee will include representatives from relevant Lebanese ministries, the International Monetary Fund and UNDP among others.
Abu Faour also addressed the snowstorm, “Alexa,” which is supposed to hit this week. There are a number of makeshift tent communities around the country that require urgent measures of protection.
A representative from the UNHCR affirmed at the news conference that urgent aid was underway. “Preparations to help Syrian refugees to face the snowstorm started a week ago and our preparedness has been going on for two years,” said Robert Watkins, resident coordinator for the UNDP.
“The U.N. High Commissioner and all of its partners are on alert to secure all the needs to protect the Syrian refugees and the Lebanese citizens during this storm,” Abu Faour added. He said at some point soon the Lebanese government would have to make a decision about establishing official camps for Syrian refugees.
The Army has also pledged its willingness to help winterize refugee camps. Abu Faour said he had been in contact with Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi, who expressed “the Army’s readiness to help in aid efforts and in the distribution of aid and equipment to wrap the tents and provide heating equipment and other needs to help the refugees in stormy weather.”