Education, Trauma Counseling Key to Helping Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Education, Trauma Counseling Key to Helping Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

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Syrian refugee children stand outside their school in Zahle, Lebanon, in the country's Bekaa Valley April 12. The international Catholic charity Caritas has been instrumental in helping Syrian refugees attend Lebanese public schools to continue their education. (CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)
Syrian refugee children stand outside their school in Zahle, Lebanon, in the country's Bekaa Valley April 12. The international Catholic charity Caritas has been instrumental in helping Syrian refugees attend Lebanese public schools to continue their education. (CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)
Syrian refugee children stand outside their school in Zahle, Lebanon, in the country’s Bekaa Valley April 12. The international Catholic charity Caritas has been instrumental in helping Syrian refugees attend Lebanese public schools to continue their education. (CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)

 
ZAHLE, Lebanon (CNS) — On a rainy spring day, the misery of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees is compounded as they shelter in dilapidated shanties dotting a long muddy swathe of the verdant Bekaa Valley. Colorful plastic sheeting, advertising cameras and cosmetics, bundle the creaky structures like unusual parcels stacked in jaunty rows, but the sheeting does little to keep out the damp and cold. Approximately 150,000 such informal camps for Syrian refugees exist in the valley because the Lebanese authorities do not allow the United Nations to set up camps in the country. The refugees must pay Lebanese landowners $35-$100 a month to park tents and shanties on land used mainly for agriculture. Such victims fleeing Syria’s 5-year conflict were among those visited by Pope Francis on the Greek island of Lesbos, as their hopes of starting a new life in Europe fade. Hundreds have died in the past year making the perilous journey into Turkey and onward to Greece in flimsy skiffs. But the 1.06 million Syrians who remain in neighboring Lebanon face continuing struggles with war trauma, dwindling funds, and a very uncertain and often dangerous future. “They have internalized the violence and loss in the conflict in Syria. Perhaps they saw loved ones killed, their houses destroyed in front of their eyes, or even being uprooted from their country has caused trauma,” Monette Kraitem, a Lebanese psychologist working the Catholic charitable agency Caritas, told Catholic News Service.