Lebanon and Syrian refugees: Problems and challenges

Read short interview with Raghda Ziadeh. She works as a project coordinator for a Lebanese non-governmental and non-profit organization DCL Foundation.

1. Can you shortly explain what you do, what is you position and what what you expect from the international community in term of helping the refugees?

I am currently working as a project coordinator for a Lebanese non-governmental and non-profit organization called DCL Foundation. We are based in the North of Lebanon. We work in underprivileged communities and we work in education and development. Since all Lebanon is affected by the Syrian crisis we started working with the Syrian refugees who are located in the North of Lebanon. We have started, in the sector of education, school like project for the Syrian children who are unable to attend regular schools, who have difficulty switching to the Lebanese curriculum, who have been out of school for a long period, who want to learn to read and write, etc. The project is running like a tutoring program with different ages, classes and needs. We hope to continue the project all year round. I am supervising and running this project. I also teach English for the young adults and mathematics for children of the Syrian refugees. I have no expectations from the international community! Our organization is just a group of individuals who care about other individuals! So if people want to help, the Syrian refugees are lacking basic living conditions especially those who are staying in villages of North Lebanon. Lodging/shelter, medical treatments, education are the most important things they are looking for. (For the Syrian refugees based in the mountains, they need heating machines, warm clothes, blankets for the winter.)

2. More than 700,000 Syrians have fled to Lebanon. It must be a big challenge for a relatively small like Lebanon. How is the society coping with this challenge?

It is a challenge that the country wasn’t prepared for! Honestly, the society in Lebanon is divided. Some people are making profit from the money that is being granted to Lebanon to help the Syrian crisis through UNHCR or other organizations. People are selling their food vouchers for cash money in order to pay for rent, medication and other necessities. Many refugees complain the lack of jobs while the Lebanese complain about the Syrians who took their work. Companies and associations are hiring the Syrians because it is cheaper to hire a Syrian than the Lebanese (especially in agriculture, construction, food and hospitality). Many thefts and kidnapping have been attributed to Syrians. Some of these incidents are true while others are fabricated. Bottom line, many Lebanese people are not happy about it because the situation in Lebanon was already difficult before and now it is worse in terms of job market, economical growth, security and safety, political problems, etc. Please do not get me wrong I am not taking sides. I am just stating facts and what i have been seeing and hearing in my community.

3. Do the situation with refugees change somehow visibly in last 2 weeks with the discussion about possible military strike on Syria?

With the refugees it didn’t change much. There were few families that wanted to go back to Syria because they were unhappy in their situation in Lebanon. However, since the possible strike on Syria they decided not to! On the other hand many Lebanese have decided to travel in order to flee to safer places before the strike occurs.

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