Syrian refugees face brutal winter with inadequate shelter and food

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Story highlights

  • "Living under shelling is better than the life here," one refugee says
  • More than 10,000 refugees have flooded a Lebanese town of 27,000
  • Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to neighboring countries
  • Save the Children: Some are confined to leaky tents in refugee camps

The Syrians who walked 18 hours to seek refuge in Lebanon have escaped the fear of government attack. But with the brutal winter closing in, some would rather go back home to warfare.

"Living under shelling is better than the life here. It is cold here and we don't have the things we need," one girl said from a ramshackle home in Arsal. "We all sleep next to one another, but we are not warm at night. We have nothing."

Lebanon has been absorbing thousands of refugees for nearly two years. And the relentless violence in Syria has sent more civilians fleeing across the border.

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In Arsal alone, more than 10,000 refugees have flooded the town of 27,000.

"It was a very difficult decision to leave my home. I never wanted to -- ever," one woman from suburban Damascus said. The missiles and cluster bombs, however, left her no choice but to flee Syria, she said.

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But the massive influx of Syrians in Lebanon has strained resources. A local administration office is running out of makeshift homes and heating fuel for refugees.

    Some must now live in places where the only source of heat is a small outdoor fire for cooking.

    The refugee crisis isn't limited to Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing their country's bloodshed have escaped to Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.

    Thousands of children remain without adequate shelter or are out in the cold, according to a new report by Save the Children.

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    Some refugees are staying in apartments they can no longer afford, while others are confined to refugee camps, living in leaky tents, the group said. Even worse, many cannot afford basic food supplies or medicine for sick children.

    "The appeal for humanitarian relief inside Syria is 50% funded, while the refugee response is only 51% funded," Save the Children said. It reported a current aid shortfall of $200 million.

    In Jordan, it is illegal for refugees to work, so some families are going into deep debt to keep their children alive over the winter, the group said.

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    A 46-year-old refugee in Lebanon described the plight of his family, who has spent the past year living in an old sheep shed.

    "I cry in my heart. I feel depressed. It's unjust. Is there a worse way to live than this?" the refugee, identified as Ahmed, told Save the Children.

    "Our situation is terrible to the maximum. We didn't expect there were humans who could live the way we are living."