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Tuberculosis found among Syrian refugees in Lebanon

A Syrian refugee family sits around a wooden stove at their temporary shelter home in Saadnayel in the Bekaa valley, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Several cases of tuberculosis have been discovered among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said Monday.

“We have discovered a number of tuberculosis cases that not only could spread among Syrian refugees but to Lebanese communities accommodating Syrian refugees,” Khalil told a meeting of donor countries at the Grand Serail.

At the same meeting Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said over 22 buses carrying Palestinians arrived in Lebanon after a Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus has been reportedly attacked by war planes Sunday.

“More than 22 buses carrying Palestinian refugees from the Yarmouk camp in Syria arrived in Lebanon Sunday after the refugee camp was bombed,” said Abu Faour.

The area of Yarmouk is home to a Palestinian camp, as well as Syrians displaced from the fighting. The refugees entered Lebanon Sunday through the Masnaa border crossing.

Monday’s meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and attended by Lebanese ministers, EU and U.N. representatives and ambassadors of 25 states.

The Lebanese government recently launched a $178 million Syrian refugee response plan, developed to provide for 130,000 refugees, although the total of those registered or waiting to register has already reached nearly 158,000, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees registers around 1,500 new refugees a day.

Local charities and activists say many more refugees are coming into the country daily, but only a portion have sought the help of the U.N. and are included in the count.

Mikati said the plan submitted by the Cabinet was all-inclusive and had the approval of participants in the meeting.

The plan was endorsed on Dec. 3 under the title “Response of the Government of Lebanon to the Crisis of Syrian Displaced Families and Lebanese Host Communities.”

Abu Faour said Monday he expected the number of refugees to increase as the Syrian crisis continues.

“These are not unrealistic expectations. On the contrary, such expectations are very realistic considering the systematic bombing and destruction going on in Syria,” said the minister.

He said the plan presented by the Cabinet early December, intended to organize coordination between the donor countries and NGOs and the government over the right ways to shelter refugees coming to Lebanon, will be implemented in cooperation with relevant institutions.

Abu Faour said the plan includes details about how aid will be spent and where the money from donor countries will go.

The head of the Delegation of the European Union, Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, said in a statement that the EU will provide Lebanon with additional aid to help the Syrian refugees coming into the country, in response to the call of Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

“Prime Minister, your call that ‘Lebanon can no longer support the burden of Syrian refugees alone’, should not be left unheard. The European Union will support the Government of Lebanon and share the burden,” said the statement.

The ambassador said 41.5 million Euros have been allocated to Lebanon to date, targeting the needs of Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities.

She added that Lebanon will get a share of additional contributions to the region by the end of the year.

“With EU Commissioner [for international cooperation Kristalina] Georgieva’s announcement last Friday of an extra 30 million Euros for the region, the allocation for Lebanon will increase further,” said the statement.

According to Eichhorst, the European Commission will propose an additional contribution for Lebanon in the beginning of 2013.

The ambassador praised the plan endorsed by Mikati and said it will enhance systematic coordination between Lebanon and donor countries over the help provided to Syrians.

“The plan is a major turning point in the management of this humanitarian crisis... It gives us all the opportunity to work in partnership with the government to shape an overall framework to reinforce the sustainability of the response provided and the ownership of the national administrations,” said the statement.

 

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