Eight-year-old Syrian girl found dead as colder weather hits Syrian refugee camps

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In the northern town of Minyeh, an eight-year-old Syrian girl was found dead after falling into a river during the storm, AP reported.

Khaled Alawi who comes from the same camp where the girl was found and which is in the northern region of Akkar has lived through six Lebanese winters since fleeing the war in his home country of Syria. The camp is made of makeshift shelters have been battered by high winds, lashing rain, snow and freezing temperatures over the past few days. After years in exile, Storm Norma has served as a painful reminder of their precarious existence in the country.

But those years of experience did little to help him when a devastating storm swept through the country this week. The Independent reported him saying “We thought we were prepared, but this was the worst one yet,” he says, surveying the damage left behind. “It was like a horror movie.”

When the rains fell hardest on Tuesday, the fields flooded and spilled over into the camp, leaking into the tents and soaking all their clothes and bedding

More than 160,000 Syrians live in small informal settlements much like this one across Lebanon. The shelters that make up the camps are typically made with plastic sheets, corrugated iron and wood, and are unsuited to the drastic changes in climate that the seasons bring.

The United Nations’ refugee agency says at least 11,000 people have been severely affected by the weather, and more than 15 camps have completely flooded. One settlement in the border town of Arsal has been buried in snow, forcing its inhabitants to burn clothes to keep warm.

Allison Zelkowitz, Save the Children’s country director in Lebanon said: “At a time when we all appreciate the warmth of our homes, it is crucial that we also think of the thousands of refugee families suffering in the freezing temperatures and struggling to survive.

The thin roofs over their heads are waiting to collapse under the heavy rainfall. The corners of their tents have been flooded. I don’t think anyone would contemplate staying in such conditions for even a short time.”

But this year marks the eighth winter many have spent living in shelters in the bitter cold. There are an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, making it one of the highest refugee populations per capita in the world. The pressure of sustaining such large numbers has taken its toll.

As the war in Syria has slowed over the last year, with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces recapturing most of the territory once held by rebels, there have been increasing calls in Lebanon for refugees to return home.

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