Storm piles misery on Syria's internally displaced and refugees in Lebanon, with UN saying it is "concerned" about 2.8 million people in the war-ravaged region.
Many of Syria's nearly three million displaced people face dire winter conditions with a brutal snowstorm hammering the region, the United Nations has warned as it urged the international community to do more to protect them.
"No one should live in these conditions" and it is "absolutely unacceptable," Mark Cutts, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, told reporters by video link on Monday.
"We are extremely concerned" about the 2.8 million displaced people in the region, he said.
The latest storm has piled misery on war-ravaged Syria's northern refugee camps, where most of the displaced are living in tents, many of which are collapsing under the weight of snow. Other areas are enduring heavy rains or freezing temperatures.
"It's a real disaster zone," Cutts added, saying an appeal has gone out for the international community to help more.
Last year the United Nations requested more than $4 billion for humanitarian aid in Syria but only collected 45 percent of the amount, according to Cutts.
Due to a lack of equipment, snow-clearing operations were being conducted by hand, he said, as he called for tents to be replaced by hard sturdier shelters.
Idlib region, where the 2.8 million displaced live, is the last Syrian enclave to oppose the regime in Damascus.
Humanitarian aid reaches them mainly through the Turkey-Syria border under special UN authorisation free from Damascus interference, and which expires in July.
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Meantime in Azez, Syria…
Refugees shiver through Lebanon snowstorm
Winter has been tough on many in Lebanon, but this year has been especially difficult for Syrian refugees living in camps in the Lebanese mountains.
The northeastern town of Arsal is home to one of the largest Syrian refugee populations in Lebanon, with some 50,000 people, most of them living in flimsy tents.
A snowstorm in the Middle East has left them struggling to stay warm.
Commodities essential for heating, like wood and diesel, have become unaffordable for many refugees.
So they turn to burning anything they have to stay warm, including plastics and other household items that emit toxic fumes.
Earlier this month, a Syrian mother and her three children died in their sleep after inhaling toxic fumes from burning coal to heat their room in a village in southern Lebanon.
The pain of our mother as a snowstorm hit Syria 💔 destroying the tents of many families, the only place they could call home after fleeing bombardment. You can help Syrian families in the refugee camps in Syria and in Lebanon this winter here: https://t.co/9n8W2CKQoj pic.twitter.com/zMk3BgmTLJ— muslim daily (@muslimdaily_) January 19, 2022
'Only God can help us'
Among the thousands of refugees living in Arsal are Mihdiya Al Amoori and her eight children.
Sky-rocketing fuel prices coupled with the collapse of the Lebanese currency means she cannot buy heating fuel.
"Every day I collect plastics and I put them in the heater so that I can cook and keep the girls warm," the mother said. She has been living in the camp for 10 years.
"I cannot afford to buy diesel. Either I buy my medicine, or I buy diesel and warm these kids. Only God can help us," Al Amoori added.
Lebanon, a country of 6 million people, is home to 1.5 million Syrians who fled the now decade-old civil war in their country.
The United Nations estimates that 90 percent of Syrian refugee households live in extreme poverty.