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Syrian refugees in Lebanon facing bitter winter

Lebanon, Syria, January 8, 2013

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Dee Goluba and Ghassan Wehbe

CNN.com
January, 2013

Editor's note: Dee Goluba has worked with aid group Mercy Corps since 1999, responding to some of the world's largest humanitarian crises including the Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia and emergencies in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ghassan Wehbe, who helped with this report, is from the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, has worked for Mercy Corps since 2006 and is responsible for the current emergency program in the Bekaa.

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (CNN) — As the Syria conflict further escalates, refugees continue to cross borders to seek safety in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. According to the U.N., the number of Syrians who have registered as refugees — or are being assisted in these countries — now exceeds 540,000, with an increase of over 140,000 during the past six weeks alone.

I recently traveled to eastern Lebanon to work with Mercy Corps and assist the refugees who have fled their homes in Syria. It was a cold, foggy day with a constant downpour of icy rain.

When we crossed the mountains into the Bekaa Valley, the rain turned to a wet snow and a hard wind lashed at us the entire day.

Lebanon continues to host the largest Syrian refugee community, with over 170,000 refugees — and they continue to stream across the border. More than 13,000 have arrived in Lebanon over the past several days as the fighting and airstrikes in Syria have intensified.