BEIRUT: Additional shelter is urgently being sought for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa and north Lebanon currently staying in schools, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday as it announced numbers of registered refugees were up to 37,240.
This figure includes 834 registered after the first week of a centralized registration process in Tripoli. The body also reported that almost 9,500 had been in touch to register.
Local charities estimate the real numbers to be closer to 90,000, and the UNHCR has stressed its figure cannot reflect the large numbers who have been unable or unwilling to register.
The UNHCR said the rise in the number of refugees sheltering in schools was posing a problem as the time neared for the start of the school year in September, when they would be forced to relocate, and that it, along with its partners, were actively seeking alternatives, including abandoned buildings.
While many displaced Syrians have found shelter with host families, as the numbers have grown substantially in recent weeks they have been forced to find alternative shelter. The UNHCR reported Friday that several Lebanese border villages in the north were reaching maximum capacity amid security concerns due to frequent shelling from Syria.
In a report released by Medicins Sans Frontieres Friday, the body estimated that more than a thousand people are living in overcrowded conditions in Wadi Khaled and the Bekaa Valley, while in Tripoli they face high rents. Many families stay in storage units rented out by local residents for around $100 to $150 a month.
The MSF report, based on a survey of 889 Syrian refugee families in the north, Bekaa and Tripoli, also highlighted the dearth of consistent medical care provided to the refugees, particularly in providing treatment for chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
MSF holds around 500 medical consultations a week, around 25 percent of which are with patients requiring treatment for chronic medical care, with 19 percent of them not receiving the treatment they need. The majority of refugees, MSF said, cannot afford the health care they require, while four out of 10 said they could not access a hospital, either because of the expense or because of security concerns.
Fabio Forgione, the head of the MSF Lebanon mission, said the decision by Lebanon’s Higher Relief Council in June to cease funding secondary health care, citing fiscal constraints, had put a strain on those few charitable organizations that are providing health care.
Although the HRC was granted a $1 billion emergency loan by the government earlier this month, Forgione said it was “no longer providing health care as it was before.”
He added that improving access to health care was not simply a case of more money, but also of better organization. “There are more than seven organizations operating in the field, meaning there is quite a lot of duplication while certain areas are lacking.
“One of the main obstacles is that there is still not a reliable registration process in place,” for the refugees, making it difficult to identify needs,” Forgione added.
U.N. humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos Thursday announced the organization would increase its financial support to the government to fund provisions for Syrian refugees.
Forgione said the problem was one that required long-term solutions. “We believe it will be a long time before these refugees are able to go back to Syria, so it is important that the support from the international community is there not just now but in the long term.”