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Lebanon Struggles to Aid Iraqi Refugees
By Nohad Topalian
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Former Baghdad Assyrian resident Jalila Danha (right) and another family member receive food aid from the Chaldean Diocese in Hazmieh in the Beirut suburbs. Danha fled Iraq about three months ago, and has been sharing one room in the Dekwaneh area with her husband's family [Nohad Topalian/Al-Shorfa].
Danha, a Chaldean Christian, arrived in Lebanon from Baghdad about three months ago, and has since been sharing one room in the Dekwaneh area with her husband's family at a monthly rent of $650. "We need help," she said. "The diocese gives us enough to minimally cope with our ordeal. We have to find work, any kind of work, because our return to Baghdad is unlikely, seeing as our neighbors threatened to kill us if we did not leave." Before they left Baghdad, Danha and her family discovered their neighbours belonged to a terrorist group, she told Al-Shorfa. Mosul native Abu Mohamed Salman, who is in his 70s, also comes to the diocese to get food rations for his family, who for the last four months has been sharing one room in al-Mazraa area in Beirut. "The diocese helps me," Salman said. "They do not discriminate in the bestowment [of assistance]." "We have long lived as one family in Iraq and did not know discrimination until the arrival of the mercenaries of the terrorist groups, whose threats reached us, so I loaded up my family and came to Beirut," he told Al-Shorfa. Iraqis have been leaving their country following the expansion of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) into their areas. Approximately 30,000 Iraqis, of all Christian and Muslim denominations, have arrived in Lebanon since July, according to Chaldean Archbishop in Lebanon Michel Kassarji. Of this number, 7,000 are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he said. "For the past seven months, we have witnessed the arrival of large numbers every week through the Beirut airport on tourist visas that are valid for a maximum of two months," the archbishop said. "During that time, they register with UNHCR in the hope that they would be deported to and resettled in a foreign country. Those who do not renew their visas for fear they would not be deported from Lebanon come knocking on our door and the doors of others, and they number in the thousands," he told Al-Shorfa. About 2,200 displaced Chaldean families are registered with the church, around 10,000 people, while 600 other families are awaiting registration, he said. "There are more than 4,000 Iraqi families of various Christian and Muslim sects who are in need of all kinds of assistance, and most of them knock on our door and the doors of churches and religious -- both Christian and Muslim -- and humanitarian organisations to obtain some of that assistance," he said. The Chaldean Diocese in Hazmieh recently received 4,800 full food rations, 1,500 of which were distributed to displaced Muslims and Yazidis, he said. Due to the rise in the number of refugees, "we have reached a stage where we cannot meet all needs, so we are forced from time to time to cry out for help with this humanitarian [crisis]", he said. The Ministry of Health contributes to the cost of treating those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer and kidney dialysis, he said, while the UNHCR covers 40% of some other medical cases and the diocese covers the balance. PROVIDING FOOD, MEDICAL SERVICES, PROTECTION The Makhzoumi Foundation is working with the UNHCR and Caritas to help displaced Iraqis through three programmes related to providing protection, food aid and health services, said relief and humanitarian services unit co-ordinator at the foundation Mohamed Mansour. "We provide displaced Iraqis with food rations, and cash in some cases, and also work through our programmes to protect displaced children from [child] labor, early marriage and sexual exploitation, in addition to the protection of battered women," he told Al-Shorfa. The foundation also provides UNHCR-supported accelerated vocational training programmes that help refugees build their skills, Mansour said. The foundation has a number of clinics, laboratories and specialised clinics that have been put at the service of refugees from Iraq and elsewhere, he added, and co-operates with Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut in cases where hospitalisation is needed. UNHCR spokeswoman Dana Suleiman said the commission provides Iraqi refugees with the same services Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive. "The commission provides the 7,000 displaced Iraqis registered with it with health care, food and medical aid, as well as financial assistance to the most needy among them," she told Al-Shorfa. Iraqis who fled their country due to the recent events can take part in programmes at the social centres hosting refugees which include support groups and educational activities for children and women, she added.

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