AKKAR, Lebanon: A center to aid Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon was opened Thursday in Akkar, as local residents questioned why it took two months to act since the refugees began streaming across the border.
A school in the village of Mashta Hammoud in Wadi Khaled was chosen to host the center, which was inaugurated during a ceremony attended by local residents and civil society representatives, who issued a statement afterward asking the government’s Higher Relief Committee and the United Nations to meet the needs of refugees.
“We also call on them to clarify the reasons why these centers have been prevented from being opened, despite the passing of more than two months since our Syrian brethren began streaming across the border into Lebanon,” the statement said.
The center was established by local NGOs and a Kuwait counterpart, the Rahma Association.
Separately, the U.N. refugee agency released an update on the refugee situation, noting that more than a quarter of Syrians who recently crossed into Lebanon for security reasons are living in difficult conditions.
The UNHCR said it was looking for “more appropriate shelter solutions” to host those willing to stay in Lebanon for the time being.
The report said that around two-thirds of the displaced population was living with relatives or friends, while others were being hosted by previously unknown individuals.
“UNHCR stands ready to provide assistance to host families to alleviate the burden on them,” the report said.
The report was released after the UNHCR, in partnership with the Social Affairs Ministry and humanitarian groups, visited some 590 displaced Syrian families in the Akkar region.
UNHCR and its partners conducted interviews with local leaders, community members and some of those who had recently entered the country.
According to the U.N. agency, most of the several hundred who crossed the border last Friday and Saturday were women and children, most of whom had since returned to Syria.
“UNHCR is following the situation closely and is continuing its outreach to visit those who remain in Lebanon from last weekend’s new arrivals,” the report said, adding that those represented some 100 individuals.
The government recently announced it would issue three-month circulation permits to displaced Syrians, and that it wouldn’t arrest and detain Syrians for illegal entry or stay in the country.
The report said that over half of the displaced families arrived in Lebanon during the first two weeks of May and were residing in Wali Khaled. It added that most of the refugees were under the age of 20.
UNHCR said it had been working with its partners on identifying most at-risk groups and their most pressing needs. “The most pressing needs expressed by the displaced population relate to food, health care and protection,” it added.
The report said a third round of distribution of food and other basic items would begin next week.
The UNHCR, with the help of the Higher Relief Committee and Unicef, have already distributed thousands of mattresses and blankets, as well as food and hygiene kits.