Lebanon News

Aid cutoff will severly impact refugee operations: UNHCR

Syrian refugees seen outside of newly set up tents in Arsal, Saturday, June 2, 2012. (The Daily Star/Rakan al-Fakih)

BEIRUT: Details of how the shutdown of Higher Relief Committee’s services will affect displaced Syrians emerged Friday in the latest report from U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The HRC announced the shutdown of most of its Syrian refugee-related operations Tuesday due to a lack of funding. The body stopped covering the cost of secondary health care and limited other types of aid distribution such as food.

As the number of refugees in the country continues to rise to what many estimate is above 60,000, the impact of the cutoff could be significant.

“This will have a severe impact on UNHCR and partner agencies,” the report read.

“While agencies will continue to shoulder most of the costs of humanitarian assistance, current funding levels do not permit these agencies from filling in for all coverage previously provided by the HRC.

“UNHCR is actively advocating for additional funding sources for the HRC in order to fill this urgent gap,” the report said.

Local aid workers in north Lebanon have said the impact of a cutoff of aid could be significant.

However, some have questioned whether the HRC is putting enough effort into continuing their operations.

Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour claimed operations were being suspended in order to fix the aid distribution system to stop it being taken advantage of by patients.

The UNHCR report also said that 800 refugees recently arrived in the northern Bekaa this week.

It added that around 900 refugee families are currently living in the dangerous border region between Lebanon and Syria.

Some have been caught in recent cross-border fighting between the Syrian Army and Lebanon-based armed groups, the report said.

The fighting last week killed two people, wounded 10 and severely raised tensions in the border area.

Eighteen Syrians were admitted to Lebanese hospitals over the past week.

UNHCR is aiding around 30,000 refugees in the country of which 28,477 are registered with the aid body.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 14, 2012, on page 2.




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