JRS Lebanon: Emergency Distribution in Baalbek

23 May 2024

Why is it critical that refugees receive basic aid?

Lebanon was hit with a wave of snowstorms and extreme cold in February and March 2022, which has not happened in many years. Temperatures dropped below zero degrees Celsius for several days, snow accumulated in various regions, and certain highways/roads in Bekaa and the mountains were completely closed due to severe snow and ice.

The fuel crisis that emerged due to Lebanon’s economic collapse resulted in diesel shortages and price hikes, contributing to long periods of electrical backouts. Hyperinflation has resulted in most residents being unable to afford basic consumer items such as food and medicine, with 54% of Lebanese and 80% of Syrian refugees living below the poverty line and in need of assistance (WFP).

These compounded difficult circumstances significantly increased families’ vulnerability during the winter storms, with many informal tent homes collapsing under heavy snowfall. In response, JRS Lebanon’s top priority was to initiate an emergency diesel distribution and to provide food baskets for families to meet their most critical survival needs in Bar Elias and Baalbek.

  • In Bar Elias, food baskets were distributed to students’ families in the three JRS schools, the majority of whom came from many nearby informal tent settlements. Rice, bulgur, chickpeas, beans, pasta, salt, sugar, oil, and tea were among the essential ingredients in each food basket.
  • The Baalbek project office assisted some of the most vulnerable families (Lebanese and Syrians) living in the area, who mainly resided in “Nahle camp.” Diesel coupons and food baskets were distributed.

The camp where the distribution occurred was founded in the Nahle area ten years ago upon displaced Syrians arriving following the commencement of the war. Some families had their own tents, while others had tents given to them as humanitarian relief.

The number of people who arrived was initially enormous, but due to the difficulties of logistical and life obstacles that they faced, camp residents quickly dispersed to nearby locations. Currently, ten old tents are occupied by 12 families with their children, according to the “Shawish” in charge of the camp. The families work difficult jobs to obtain the money to pay the landowners rent to avoid eviction.

The camp, which is roughly 10 kilometres from the JRS Baalbek office (12 to 15 minutes by car), is practically uninhabitable due to the absence of living essentials such as water, electricity, and sanitation. Food and shelter are in short supply for children, and the high cost of life and economic collapse have made circumstances worse.

Amongst the residents of the camp, Y. A., a Syrian child who was raised in the arms of his grandmother who took care of him since his birth when his parents refused to raise him. He grew up with his grandmother in the Syrian city of Al-Qusayr since he was seven days old.

Since 2012, Y.A. has lived at the Nahle camp in the Bekaa area with other refugee children. He has not started school yet and only knows his first name. The most basic needs of clothing and nourishment are always required.

The JRS Centre in Baalbek was able to deliver food baskets and a heating fuel voucher to the families living in this camp thanks to the generosity of the donor institutions committed to serving the most vulnerable individuals in Lebanon.

Y.A. was pleased with the food basket, particularly the “cheese,” which is his favorite meal. He had not eaten cheese in months, and as soon as he received his food ration, he began happily devouring cheese. When asked: “How do you feel now when you receive the food basket?” he answered: “I am extremely glad; cheese is my favorite food. I wish I could eat labneh and cheese all the time. I rarely get it”. His grandmother had also received a food basket from JRS Baalbek during the month of March of this year. Such continuous assistance is greatly appreciated.

Y.A. is one of many examples of refugee children struggling from hunger because of the crisis in Lebanon, whom JRS is committed to accompanying in serving amongst trying circumstances.


This story was provided to JRS USA by JRS Lebanon