ShelterBox ramps up effort to reach 'widely dispersed' Syrian refugees
A Westcountry disaster relief charity is stepping up its operations in one of the world's most dangerous regions.
ShelterBox is increasing its presence in countries neighbouring war-torn Syria as the United Nations reported that the number of refugees had topped one million.
The charity response teams are now at work in Syria's neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Jordan, and is considering a return to Iraq Kurdistan, and will look at further opportunities to deliver aid into Syria itself.
Ross Preston, ShelterBox head of operations, said the situation faced by refugees fleeing the conflict was truly terrible, made worse by the fact that half were estimated to be children under the age of 11.
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"Housing is sparse, and conditions in the winter weather have been appalling," he said.
"With our distribution partners we are now making every effort to reach these widely dispersed refugee families, but this is a very challenging operation.
"Lebanon is being overwhelmed by the refugee crisis, and its government has given special permission to ShelterBox to provide tents to ease these people's suffering."
According to the Helston-based charity, which delivers aid in trademark green crates, the need for help was increasing daily.
In Jordan, where almost 325,000 refugees have fled, the focus is on the vast Syrian southern border where rest areas have already been established for newly arriving refugees using ShelterBox winter tents.
Working with Rotary Club members in Jordan, ShelterBox is helping the local authorities to plan much larger staging encampments where refugees will be registered and cared for before making their onward journey.
Hundreds of ShelterBoxes are on standby to help create a series of safe havens, the charity said.
In Lebanon the influx of refugees has swollen the population by 10% and pushed resources to the limit.
ShelterBox teams are now deploying 700 boxes in discrete micro distributions to Syrian refugee families living in the community, many in derelict buildings or even caves.
The charity was the first international organisation to get supplies to refugees fleeing into Lebanon in the wake of a landmark political deal earlier this month.
It had been trying to get 700 of its specially prepared crates to help the 400,000 people estimated to have flooded into the tiny country and who are feared to be in danger of overwhelming supplies.
However, local wrangling kept their lifesaving equipment locked and out of reach in a Beirut Airport hangar since early January until the conclusion of negotiations with the Lebanese government.
In earlier deployments aimed at helping Syrian refugees, teams had set up winter tents for 500 families at Domiz camp in Iraq Kurdistan, given stationery packs to its school and delivered blankets and equipment within the Syrian border.