Skip to content Skip to cookie consent
Tearfund home

Tearfund’s Middle East response update

Thanks to Tearfund supporters’ generosity, so far our local partners have been able to reach some of those affected.

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 04 Apr 2024

Claudette, a Lebanese woman with long, dark hair and a black top, smiles warmly as she talks. She stands in front of supplies ready to distribute to people who have been internally displaced in Lebanon after intense cross-border fighting in the south at the border with Israel.

Claudette works with one of Tearfund’s local partners in Beirut, Lebanon, responding to the needs of people who have fled the conflict spilling over Lebanon’s southern border. She says, ‘What keeps us going is the calling to respond to people in need, just as our Lord commands.’ Credit: MERATH

The devastation of ongoing conflict in Gaza and the Middle East right now is across our media daily. It’s a complex situation which has left huge numbers of people in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

At the time of writing, getting vital assistance to many is still close to impossible. However, thanks to the generosity of Tearfund supporters, so far our local partners have been able to reach some of the people affected in Lebanon and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Fleeing the southern borders of Lebanon

The conflict in Israel and Gaza has spilt over into Lebanon, resulting in intense cross-border fighting and bombing. By the end of March, more than 90,000 people had been forced to flee their homes in the south of Lebanon, near the border with Israel, in search of safety.

Salim* is from Rmeish, one of the southern villages that have been affected. He tells us, ‘Rmeish always was a peaceful and well-loved village. I was born there in 1947. During the July 2006 war**, we welcomed between 20,000 and 30,000 displaced people from neighbouring villages. They lived with us in our houses and we provided food and drink for them for 33 days.’

This time, Salim and his family have had to leave their home and seek out safety.

He says, ‘Before this new crisis, people were making a reasonable living from cultivating tobacco, beans, olives and grapes. Now, we are barely surviving as we had to flee from our homes, because we fear what might happen to us there.’

Salim, his wife, their daughter Lama* along with her husband and one of their daughters and her three children, and Lama’s sister and brother-in-law now share a small apartment in Beirut.

‘Before this new crisis, people were making a reasonable living from cultivating tobacco, beans, olives and grapes. Now, we are barely surviving.’
Salim, Lebanon

Leaving everything behind

Lama says, ‘Rmeish is a beautiful village right near the border. People who come for the first time are amazed because although it is relatively small, it has everything you need. The nature is beautiful and the local families are welcoming. People work very hard to be able to give their children a good education.

‘What is happening now reminds us of the July 2006 war. We lost a lot back then, and we never gained it back. It was a traumatising experience and we could not imagine going through that again. That is why 70 per cent of the village’s inhabitants – those who can afford it – have left already. Everything has closed in the village. The economic situation is terrible. People depend on agriculture to survive, but the tobacco was supposed to be harvested and the olives were supposed to be picked by now. People cannot reach their trees because they fear the bombs and because white phosphorus is being used and exposure to it is extremely dangerous. People are scared.

‘If the bombs fall on the crops, we won’t be able to cultivate again.’

Lama says the decision to leave Rmeish was very difficult. She describes crying as they closed the door to their house, wondering whether they would ever be able to come back.

The struggle to find shelter in Beirut

‘We were scared on the road from Rmeish to Tyre,’ she says, ‘there was no one and we could hear the sound of planes. Then, we reached Beirut and there were no available houses. Landlords are asking between $500 to $1,000 a month, but an average salary is barely $100! What are people supposed to do? Eventually, a relative from our village let us rent his apartment.

‘It is very hard, and we are lacking many things. We thought that we were going to stay one or two weeks in Beirut, until things calmed down, but we still can’t go back and don’t know when we will be able to. We don’t have furniture, we don’t have winter clothes, and we will soon run out of money.

‘It’s hardest for the children who have been displaced. Their school closed in the south and they are not receiving any education here. They are sitting at home, wasting precious time, and they feel lost.’

A young Lebanese girl with hair in a ponytail, wearing a white T-shirt with flowers and dark leggings, holds a brightly-coloured hula hoop as she stands amid supplies prepared for families like hers who have been displaced by the fighting in the south of Lebanon near the border with Israel.

Yara* plays happily for a moment with her hula hoop while her family receives some help from our local partner. Her father, Kamil*, decided to bring the family from their home near the southern border of Lebanon to keep them safe – both from physical harm and from the emotional trauma that he experienced last time conflict affected the region in 2006. Credit: MERATH

Lasting trauma

Kamil is also from one of the southern villages. He too has brought his family to Beirut. He says, ‘It was a difficult decision to leave. My home and my work are there and I don’t know if it will still be there when I get back. We have no idea. Our lives are in our village, but I chose to leave because of my daughter. I remember what it was like during the 2006 war. My father decided for the family to stay, and the sounds of the bombings stayed with me for years. I can’t let my daughter have those nightmares.’

Local church partners helping people who have been displaced

Amid the fear and challenges facing so many who have run from the danger, Tearfund’s local church partners have been making a difference.

  • 3,630 people in Lebanon have been reached with immediate aid (food boxes and other essential items such as mattresses, blankets, feminine hygiene products and nappies), delivered through a network of churches
  • 1,116 IDPs*** received ‘winterisation’ fuel in villages across southern Lebanon to help people stay warm during the winter. This was distributed through a network of faith organisations.

Claudette works with our local partner, MERATH. She has been helping many of those who have come to Beirut. She says, ‘The situation is heavily affecting people psychologically. Besides the fear they felt, they are tired emotionally because they left everything. So, we try to provide them with a shoulder they can cry on.

‘The need is huge, but MERATH is providing everything they can, and we are thankful for their support.

‘When people come, we tell them we are a Christian organisation and we are here to help them. The distributions are smooth and easy because all the displaced people themselves are volunteering to help us. They want to be helpful, and this is beautiful. It gives us some joy amid the prevailing sadness.’

‘[Tearfund’s local partners] have been helping us, and we are very thankful. We send our thanks to everyone who is making this possible.’
Salim, Lebanon

Food, mattresses and comfort

Lama says, ‘Everyone who came from Rmeish received food boxes, which helped a lot because families have nothing and food in Beirut is very expensive. It is a huge support, especially to large families with many children.

‘MERATH also provided mattresses, which helped us accommodate the many people who are living with us now. We put the mattresses on the floor of the living room and we sleep on them. They also gave us blankets.

‘There is something very comforting in knowing that someone is here for you and ready to help with anything. Even when it is only asking about how you are doing.’

What keeps us going…

Claudette says, ‘What keeps us going is the calling to respond to people in need, just as our Lord commands. No matter how tough things become, we are certain that the Lord is with us and we believe in the promise that he will never abandon us. If we have any hope at all, our hope is in God’s word.’

If you’d like to join us in praying for the wider situation, we’ve recently updated our helpful prayer guide.

*Names have been changed for protection.

** What was the July 2006 War? Fighting erupted on 12 July 2006 after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed several others in Israel. By the time a UN ceasefire took effect on 14 August, around 1,200 Lebanese and 159 Israelis had died, with thousands more people injured on both sides. An estimated 1 million people were displaced in Lebanon, and another 300,000–500,000 in Israel.

*** IDPs or Internally Displaced Persons are people who have had to leave their homes to escape dangerous events such as violent conflict or climate disasters and have sought refuge somewhere else within the same country.

Pray for Lebanon

    • Claudette asks, ‘As well as praying especially for the displaced people and their children, please pray for our team, that we would truly reflect Jesus’s image to the people we serve. That in everything we do and say they might see something different than everything they have seen before. That we would never serve as the result of a habit or without heart, from a place of self-righteousness. Thank you for feeling with us and helping us.’
    • Lama asks, ‘Please pray with us that God protects our houses from being destroyed, that the war doesn’t continue for long, and that we can quickly go back. May God do a miracle and provide a solution to this complex situation.’

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna

Share this page

Share this page to spread the word and help support those in need.

Get our email updates

Learn about our work and stay in touch with Tearfund. Hear about our news, activities and appeals by email.

Sign up now - Get our email updates

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.