Special Initiatives & Emergency Response

Save the Children provides rapid assistance for refugees left homeless in Lebanon

Shadi, a 5-year-old Syrian boy and his mother
Photo Credit: Nour Wahid/Save the Children

Thousands of Syrian children and their families living in Arsal, Eastern Lebanon, are being made homeless by the forced demolition of their shelters. This follows a government order that any “semi-permanent structure” built by refugees in informal camps must be deconstructed.

Save the Children is using seed funding granted by the IKEA Foundation to provide people affected with emergency support, including shelter kits and Child Friendly Spaces.

Children and families suffer greatly during humanitarian crises, whether natural or manmade. Preparedness is essential and seed funding enables Save the Children to make a quick assessment of the situation and scale up the response to save lives.

That is why we provided a €1 million grant to Save the Children with a simple objective: to save lives, alleviate suffering and restore the dignity of children and families when an emergency strikes. Often, these are unseen emergencies which receive little or no media attention.

Arsal is home to nearly 100,000 people including around 40,000 Syrian refugees, many of whom live under the poverty line, and lack job opportunities. When refugees first settled into the area they mostly lived in tents. As the years went by, they reinforced their tents to survive the extreme weather conditions (including snow) to which Arsal and the wider Bekaa Valley are prone.

In mid-April the government declared that all “semi-permanent structures” built by Syrian refugees using materials other than timber and plastic sheeting in informal camps must be deconstructed. Refugees in Arsal were given until 1 July to bring their homes into compliance. After this, any non-compliant structures will be demolished. It is expected that this order will be extended across all of Lebanon in the coming months.

By 27 June, less than half of refugees’ homes in Arsal had been demolished by their inhabitants, out of a total of more than 2,700 structures. It is estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 homes will be demolished, meaning that more than 12,000 people—including 7,500 children —will be made homeless.

At 4:30 am on 1 July, military units moved into several camps in Arsal and demolished at least 20 homes. The presence of soldiers in the camps at dawn and the demolition of homes with heavy machinery has traumatised families who have already lost everything.

Save the Children will distribute shelter kids for immediate assistance in Arsal, as well as in the Bekaa Valley, in anticipation of future demolitions.

They will also establish and operate mobile Child Friendly Spaces to allow children and adolescents access to activities that contribute to their psychosocial well-being.

This is one example of how the IKEA Foundation supports people affected by unseen emergencies. In April we further strengthened this approach through a €5 million grant to the Start Network. This is an in-country NGO-led funding mechanism that responds to small and medium crises, spikes during chronic crises, and increasingly in anticipation of crises. We empower trusted partners with decision making authority to quickly assess and respond to the situation or take pre-emptive steps to prevent an emergency from occurring.