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In Beqaa Valley, "Winter will be tough"


With his good eye, Abu Abbas focuses on the ashtray resting on the mat. A young autistic boy runs around him in the tent. To his right, a window has been cut into the chipboard which acts as a wall. It lets a trace of sunlight come in to chase away the rain-heavy clouds from the previous night. All around the tent, a thick, sticky mud changes the gravity of the premises. With each step the same question, will my boots stick?

A little further on, children run, some are barefoot. One might think that they are equipped with snowshoes as the mud accumulates around their legs giving them a strange gait. Abu Abbas looks up, watches the kids running outside, takes a sip of hot tea and then begins his story in a soft voice.

Abu Abbas is from Khanasir in the Southern suburbs of Aleppo, Syria. He used to teach, but that was when there was a school and students. There was also water and electricity, but that was before the bombs and rockets swept off the city.

Caught between the various parties to the conflict, a victim of looters, Abu Abbas left. "We were not at all safe – you could die at any moment." Arriving in Lebanon, "there was a sense of bringing our children to a safe place. A few days earlier, terror rained down from the sky, everyone was in danger. There we could rest our souls."

Abu Abbas and his family live with thirty other families in a small camp set up on private land at Dal Hamiye in the Beqaa Valley. For a little over $400 a year, they rent a place for the tent which they built using mainly recycled materials. For the rest, they depend primarily on humanitarian organisations.

That day, ACF came to install toilets and evaluate other possible needs in this small camp where residents live self-sufficiently. "The relationship with the Lebanese is complicated since what happened in Arsal", where Lebanese soldiers were kidnapped by armed groups, others were killed. "When it is about work it’s fine, but otherwise we avoid meeting."  It is mutual support and resourcefulness that now prevail in the small community where the idleness of the youngest is a source of major concern. "Children do not go to school for months, what kind of future will they have?"

Some men came back from the nearby town of Zahle, frustrated. Every morning they station themselves near a roundabout in the hope that a van stops and takes them for a day's work. There was no work today, for any of them. Yesterday was the same. The farming season is over, winter is coming and marks the end of most of the seasonal work. Bad weather does not help, many projects have stalled.

Behind Abu Abbas’ tent, another tent – not as robust – was unable to withstand the weather the day before. It collapsed completely under the weight of the rain – like a sinking ship in a sea of mud. "Winter will be tough" announces Abu Abbas.

The winter will be tough in Lebanon for more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees and the many Lebanese in need.

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