Working to improve living conditions for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Working to improve living conditions for Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Sourayya pictured with her youngest son, Ahmad

Sourayya, a 40-year old mother of six, was forced to flee Syria in 2014 with her family. “We fled our house twice, but we remained in Syria,” she recalled, “we tried our hardest to protect our belongings and not to leave our country.” The neighbourhood battles however got too intense, and Sourayya along with her husband and six children, were forced to flee. They sought refuge in an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. 

It was a cold post-storm January morning, when Sourayya, and her family arrived at the settlement. “I shouted ‘there is no way on earth I will live here’ the minute I saw the condition the settlement was in,” Sourayya admitted. “Some tents were broken, everything was muddy, and there was dirt all over the place. It struck me that my children will have to endure this, and this depressed me,” she said. The first time Sourayya stepped in their tent, she looked for the bathroom. To her surprise, there was no bathroom installed. The first couple of weeks were very hard on the family. “My children were in need of water. The first couple of times I asked my neighbours, and then people stopped sharing with us,” Sourayya recalled. All she could think about is how the lack of hygiene and water would affect her children’s health, and she worried for them. 

Sydra, 10, left, and Loiaven, 14, are Syrian refugees living in a refugee settlement in Lebanon.

World Vision, through its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene team learned that Sourayya’s family did not have any bathroom facilities. The toilet was installed a couple of days later. “This toilet was a life-saver,” Sourayya smiled and continued, “and none of the people living in the settlements, including myself, could have properly maintained good hygiene if it weren’t for the many awareness sessions we also received.” Almost 5,000 families benefitted from these sessions provided by World Vision as part of this particular Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene project. The project consisted of hygiene awareness sessions aiming to help improve the hygiene behaviour of refugees residing in the settlements. “I believe that it was highly beneficial for our children to know how to wash their hands and keep themselves clean,” said Sourayya. 

Syrian refugee children in a refugee settlement in Lebanon.

World Vision New Zealand has teamed up with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Lebanon to provide water and sanitation facilities, as well as education for refugee families like Sourayya’s and Lebanese host communities. This includes the construction of a sewerage pipeline, improved wastewater and environmental management, as well as hygiene and awareness training. It is estimated that 28% of refugees do not have access to clean water. 39% of refugees do not have access to sanitation facilities, and 92% of Lebanon’s sewage runs untreated into water courses. 

Since 2012, World Vision has been responding to the Syria Crisis, providing assistance to over 1.3 million Syrian refugees and vulnerable members of local host communities. Lebanon is dealing with an unprecedented inflow of refugees leading to overburdened water, sanitation and waste systems as well as significant hygiene risks.