For three weeks in August, Operation Florian was invited to Lebanon by Save the Children to undertake a fire risk reduction project in a number of informal settlements to reduce fire risks for Syrian refugees after a series of fatal fires.
Operation Florian over the past two years have built up expertise working specifically in refugee camps and informal settlements to evaluate how fire risks can be reduced adopting a holistic approach working with NGO’s and communities.
Over 1 million refugees are currently registered in Lebanon, which already hosts the highest refugee population per capita in the world. This influx of people has created huge infrastructure pressures on the country in addition to a range of economic and social impacts. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict the Lebanese Government has prohibited the establishment of formal camp settlements. As a result refugees have settled throughout the country, predominantly in the poorest areas of country in a range of accommodation settings; informal tented settlements, substandard buildings, collective centres and private apartments in both peri-urban and urban centres.
Consequently, usual humanitarian standards around disaster risk reduction such as site planning, design, certain infrastructure provision cannot be applied in this context. Tragically, it is estimated that up to 70% of Syrian refugees live under the poverty line, and rely on aid. Refugees enjoy few legal rights.
Tragically, this has led to a number of fire deaths and severe burns injuries involving children. ‘In 2015 120 refugees were admitted to the Al-Salam Hospital, Tripoli with severe life changing burns. 50% of these patients were aged between 0 – 5 years old. Of these 50% of the injuries were caused by fires and the other 50% were caused by hot scalds…..this is the tip of the iceberg’ – UN Spokesman
Working in partnership with Save the Children the Operation Florian team managed to visit 22 informal settlements and 10 sub standard buildings and speak to refugee leaders and communities. Additionally, the team had a chance to meet various representatives of NGO’s working with refugee communities and work alongside the Lebanese Civil Defence to understand the challenges they face.
As previously experienced there were a number of common causes of fires the main involving cooking practices and electrical wiring. But on account of the contextual and cultural differences the team were faced with a range of challenges issues. Added to the fact that the displacement of refugees is incredibly wide which only reinforces the challenges. This being considered the team identified solutions and recognised that there were opportunities to review existing strategies and build upon them to improve refugee safety.
After completing the report for Save the Children it is hoped that Operation Florian can provide further assistance working with the Lebanese Civil Defence to continue the project of capacity building.
The would like to thank Dana Shdeed and Rayan Hajj from Save the Children for organising the visit. The team would also like to thank all of the wonderful people we meet during the three visit and we hope we meet again soon.