AQBIYEH, Lebanon: The head of a French NGO operating in Lebanon called on his government Monday to increase support for Syrian refugees in the country and to improve on humanitarian conditions in refugee camps following a visit to the south. “We [at the Secours Populaire] mix material help with calls to the French government and European authorities to tell them not to shut their eyes to this human tragedy,” said Julin Laprete, president of Secours Populaire. The French NGO established food dispensaries across south Lebanon to support refugees.
Laprete’s remarks came as he visited the town of Aqbiyeh, south of Sidon, to see the conditions of Syrian families living in the area.
During the visit to a refugee center, Syrian children were seen beating a rat that had snuck into their room. Mohammad Mostapha, a refugee from Homs, laughed and said, “Do not be surprised, rats visit us daily here; they live with us in our rooms. We kill at least one rat every day. We live underground and few of us see sunlight.” “The concerned organizations should address our problems and ask the Lebanese authorities to spray pesticides to kill rodents,” he added.
Laprete visited a community of 200 Syrian families who live in the basement of an apartment building in Aqbiyeh. The inhabitants all fled from the countryside around Homs when the war began in Syria in 2011.
“The goal of this visit was to show the refugees our solidarity ... Solidarity doesn’t solve everything, but it is indispensable, and that is why I am here with the refugees today,” Laprete said after the visit. “[Showing unity] is why Secours Populaire is developing a big solidarity campaign, particularly here with our Lebanese partners.”
He also called for intensifying efforts to get governmental funding for the refugees, underscoring the crisis as a global calamity. “When you see the fate that awaits the children, you realize it is particularly tragic,” added Laprete.
Outside, refugees who had lined up to get food packages began pushing and shoving, halting the distribution. “Isn’t what has happened to us enough? They stopped distributing food to us because we are not organized,” Harba al-Daba said as she waited for her package.
Volunteers attempted to organize distribution efforts, to no avail.
More than a million Syrians are registered with the U.N. in Lebanon, having fled the ongoing civil war in Syria. Tens of thousands of these families have sought refuge in south Lebanon where many work informally or are dependent on U.N. and NGO support.