EU gives 70 mln euros in winter aid for Syrians in Lebanon

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The European Union is donating an additional 70 million euros in aid to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon during the winter months, the EU envoy to Beirut said Friday.

Speaking after a meeting with President Michel Sleiman, Angelina Eichhorst praised the country for welcoming nearly 780,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

“We are making every effort to help meet the urgent needs of Lebanese and refugees through emergency humanitarian aid and the development of infrastructure and basic services,” she said.

“An additional amount of 70 million euros ($95.8 million) will be allocated by the EU humanitarian agency ECHO to help the poorest refugees through the winter,” she added.

With winter fast approaching, aid agencies are scrambling to prepare the vulnerable community for the cold and rain.

Many are living in informal housing, including unfinished buildings, makeshift shelters and tents and face the threat of flooding as well as bitterly cold temperatures without heating.

Eichhorst said the extra funding, which would cover a period from November to March, would go to help 90,000 families identified as the most vulnerable.

The Syrian conflict had forced two million people to flee into neighbouring countries, with Lebanon receiving the largest number.

U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has registered 779,000 Syrians in Lebanon, which has a population of four million, but the real number is thought to be much higher.

The influx has put pressure on an already-ailing infrastructure and prompted Sleiman and other politicians to urge the international community to pay more attention and offer more aid.

The conflict in neighboring Syria has also exacerbated existing tensions in Lebanon's society, with many Shiite Muslims backing the Syrian regime and many Sunnis supporting the uprising against it.

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