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Refugee crisis: How we're helping

Life for the 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon is hard
Life for the 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon is hard

The Prime Minister yesterday visited Syrian refugees in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon. The UK has pledged £29m in aid to Lebanon to help pay for food, clean water, blankets, cooking equipment, play areas and counselling support for children.

Lebanon is hosting over 1.1 million refugees – a quarter of this small country’s population. Conditions for refugees are desperate. SOS Children’s Villages has been working with the refugee community since March 2014. 

Here we take a look at what we have been able to achieve so far, as well as looking at how we’re helping address the refugee crises that are affecting areas of Europe. 

Life as a refugee in Lebanon | What we're doing in Lebanon | Addressing the refugee crisis in Europe 

A tough life for refugees in Lebanon

Living conditions for Syrian refugees in Lebanon are incredibly difficult.

Temporary refugee shelter in Lebanon
The shelters refugees call home offer little protection from the elements

The vast majority are living in rented accommodation or flimsy, temporary shelters dotted around the country. The country’s 12 formal refugee camps, home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees, are overflowing and the government is unwilling to establish new ones.

A recent UNHCR assessment discovered that more than half of all Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in sub-standard shelters. The half-finished buildings, garden sheds and abandoned warehouses that many Syrians now call home are unsafe, unclean and lack all basic amenities like water, electricity and sewerage. Thousands more are living without even a roof to protect them from the elements.

Four-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon
Four-year-old Tarek was living on the streets of Beirut before coming to the SOS Children’s Villages emergency care centre
With another bitter winter on the horizon, the situation is becoming increasingly desperate. Children, like Tarek, are the most vulnerable.

Tarek's story

Tarek is four-years-old. When their home in Kameshli, Syria, was destroyed, Tarek and his family fled to Lebanon. They were found on the streets of Beirut, living on a piece of cardboard box, relying for their survival on the generosity of people who walked by them. Their mother had left them.

Today, Tarek and his brother are staying at the SOS Children’s Villages emergency interim care centre in Khonshara. The boys attend school while their father looks for a job and a home where he and his boys can live together again.

Tarek wants to become a doctor and make a lot of money; he says he loves SOS Children’s Villages because he’s getting an education.

SOS Children providing support and relief

Since March 2014, we have been running an interim emergency care centre that looks after unaccompanied and vulnerable children in Khonshara, Lebanon.

There are thousands of unaccompanied children and children separated from their families in Lebanon. So far we have cared for over 200 such children, providing them with access to education and psychological support.

To help children escape from the chaos and hardship that surrounds them, we have opened a child-friendly space and day-care centre which are used by around 250 children.

As well as caring for children, we know that supporting and strengthening families is key to improving the situation for child refugees. It is incredibly difficult for refugees to find work in Lebanon as they are in direct competition with equally poor and desperate Lebanese. Our economic empowerment project, which includes a mixture of vocational training and psychological counselling, has so far helped around 100 refugee women living around Beirut support their families

The European situation

The reality for Syrians in Lebanon remains incredibly difficult, and thousands have decided to seek a better life elsewhere. Many of them have made the perilous journey to Europe; between January and August this year, an estimated 350,000 refugees crossed into Europe.

Our long established programmes in Serbia, Macedonia and Italy have enabled us to respond quickly to the needs of refugees arriving in those counties.

An infographic detailing how we're helping refugees in Europe and the Middle East


In Serbia, we are creating a child-friendly space for children arriving at the information point in Belgrade. This space is a safe, secure place where children can play together and escape from the challenges that surround them. Child-friendly spaces are also an invaluable resource for over-stretched parents.

Over the coming months, SOS Children’s Villages Serbia will provide boxes of nappies, baby food and other essentials to young children and their mothers. Blankets, raincoats and winter clothes will also be supplied to refugees.


In Macedonia, a team of SOS Children’s Villages staff will be working at the Vinojug refugee site on the Greek border. The team will include a psychologist, child development specialist and education professionals. As soon as the site has electricity, we plan to operate an IT corner which will help families contact loved ones, reunite parents with children and allow people to properly research travel options.

A house in SOS Children’s Village Skopje will provide a temporary home to children who have made the journey alone, or who have become separated from their families along the way.


Unaccompanied or separated children are incredibly vulnerable, at risk of falling prey to human traffickers and criminals. Between January and June over 4,300 children arrived on Italy’s shores without their parents or families. SOS Children’s Village Mantova and Vicenza have established dedicated refugee programmes and are looking after 15 such children.


100 refugee children who have no-one, will find a loving home with SOS Children’s Village Austria over the coming months.

We've been working to support Syrians since the war erupted in 2012. In Syria, we've helped thousands of people, providing food, shelter and warm clothes and school supplies. Our child-friendly spaces remain safe havens where children come to escape from the trauma of war. Find out more and donate to our Syria crisis appeal now