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Life across the border: Supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Lebanon, Syria, September 5, 2013

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Hannah is a single mother. She escaped the fighting in her home city of Idlib, Syria and came to Lebanon where she lives in an abandoned shack with her seven children. Every day she goes out to find work wherever she can — pulling weeds, cleaning homes, anything it takes to survive and find food to feed her kids. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Walid, 11, lives with his family in a mosque that has been turned into a refugee center. They left Damascus under attack. The Syrian army bombed his grandmother’s home and his grandfather is “missing.” He has not been heard from for over six months. As they fled Damascus by foot, Walid remembers stepping over dead and wounded bodies on the street. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Every day more Syrian families are crossing Lebanon’s borders seeking safety. Mercy Corps is helping refugees meet their basic needs with distributions of household items, vouchers for school clothes and other necessities. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Hadeel (in red shirt) is 11 years old. She fled Damascus last year with her family when the fighting started in her neighborhood and her parents couldn’t find work and afford to buy food. She says, “Lebanon is ok. It is safe here for now.” Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Much of our work in Lebanon is focused on bringing support and healing to young Syrian refugees, their parents, and Lebanese host families, all affected by the escalating violence in Syria. Program manager Ghassan Wehbe (center) is a favorite with the kids. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Over half of the total Syrian refugee population in Lebanon is children. Mercy Corps’ Comfort for Kids program provides children like Daniya, 6, cooperative games and collaborative storytelling that help them move past painful experiences and regain a sense of safety and security. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Ghadeer, 11, is a refugee from Damascus. She also participates in Mercy Corps’ Comfort for Kids program. The activities are designed to provide psychosocial support to children who have experienced and continue to experience extreme stress due to the conflict. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The program is also designed to help children integrate with their new host communities. When Faisal (center) arrived in Lebanon he did not know anyone and was very lonely. But since joining Comfort for Kids, he met Joumaa (left), who is Lebanese. Now they are best friends. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Yamaan, 8, Mohammed, 8, and Ibrahim, 6, show the workbooks they use in the Comfort for Kids program. The interactive workbooks are designed to help children process trauma by allowing them to tell their story in a safe environment. The children often draw painful memories from Syria that they are unable to express verbally. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Trained psychosocial workers supervise Mercy Corps’ youth programs. They help traumatized children process their emotional response to the conflict and act as mentors by encouraging healthy self-expression and openness. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Su’ad Jarbawi (third from front) is an emergency program officer with Mercy Corps. She is leading a Moving Forward sports program activity. The youth activities are designed to build confidence and self-esteem in the wake of the devastating events that the youths have experienced. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps’ programs help adolescents build constructive communication, leadership and teamwork skills through sport- and play-based group activities. For many of the participants, particularly girls, this is the first time they've been empowered to play leadership roles in their communities. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Leen, 7, celebrates Eid with her new friends at a party for Syrian refugees and Lebanese host community members. Mercy Corps’ youth activities offer opportunities for Lebanese and Syrian refugee children to interact, and build friendships and understanding. For Leen and many refugee children, it is the first chance they have had to integrate into their new communities. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

Lebanon, the smallest country to border Syria, is hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees — 720,000 as of today. One in every sixth person is a Syrian refugee.

They have escaped war, but unfortunately, the conditions these families face when they arrive in Lebanon are extremely difficult. There are no organized camps to host them and not enough services to assist them all. Most children cannot attend school and families are struggling to afford rising prices for rent and food with whatever odd jobs they can find.

In these photos, see what life is like for Syrians who have sought refuge in Lebanon and learn how Mercy Corps is helping meet their basic needs and protecting children who are the most vulnerable.

How you can help

As the conflict intensifies in Syria, more families are fleeing to neighboring countries seeking safety. Your support is more crucial than ever to ensure refugees have the help they need to put their lives back together.

  • Follow the latest updates on Mercy Corps' response to the Syrian refugee crisis and share stories to raise awareness and support.

  • Donate today. You'll help us deliver clean water, distribute desperately-needed supplies and protect children during this crisis.