Refugees prepared for strongest snowstorm in years affecting the Levant: UNHCR

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The UNHCR has distributed “winter cash assistance” to displaced Syrian refugees for them to be prepared for the winter's cold including the snowstorm that will be affecting the Levant as of Wednesday, said UNHCR spokesperson Lisa Abou Khaled.

“In terms of preparations, we start very early on in preparing for the winter season way before it starts. We start giving what we call ‘winter cash assistance’ to all refugees. Over 90 percent of refugees have been targeted by this cash assistance. Refugees use this cash assistance to get fuel, food, and medicine,” Abou Khaled added.

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Abou Khaled added that most refugees bought fuel with this assistance in order to battle the winter's cold.

Al Arabiya English reached out to meteorologist Wael Hakim at the Jordan-based Arabia Weather network who said it is noteworthy that the Levant has not witnessed significant snowstorms during the winter season since 2015.

Jordan and Lebanon primarily are home to over 3 million displaced Syrian refugees who mostly live in camps with no proper protection from the harsh weather conditions.

“The air depression expected to affect the eastern basin of the Mediterranean is considered a fourth-degree winter storm according to the Arab weather classification for the severity of the snowstorm, with the fifth-degree being the highest on the scale,” Hakim added.

Syrian refugees struggle amid snowfall. (File photo: Supplied)
Syrian refugees struggle amid snowfall. (File photo: Supplied)

UNHCR spokesperson Abou Khaled added that the UNHCR also prepared informal settlements by installing thermal isolation through wood and plastic.

“This in many cases is not enough unfortunately and every year we see damage in terms of broken tents from the intense wind or snow,” she added.

UNHCR teams will be deployed during the storm to assess and fix damaged shelters in the Beqaa valley, North, and other regions.

“Before every storm we have a contingency plan in place, we coordinate with partner NGOs and local authorities, we communicate with messages to refugees, we inform them with details on weather updates and we send them instructions on how to protect themselves,” she added.

Arabia Weather’s Hakim added that the effects of the storm will be in the form of snowfall in Jordan at an altitude of 800 meters, and perhaps less, and therefore the capital, Amman, will be among the areas that will witness important snow accumulations that may impede public life in the city.

Lebanon-based meteorologist Elias Saadeh added that the last storm of such intensity occurred 6 years ago in February of 2015.

“Most of Lebanon’s mountainous areas will be covered with snow, as snow is expected to reach an altitude of 600 meters in Lebanon, this storm is considered a medium-power snowstorm since it considerably short, 36 hours only, and since the snow will not reach an altitude below 400 meters,” Saadeh added.

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