The UAE embassy in Lebanon recently distributed close to 1,300 food parcels to Syrian refugees and low-income Lebanese in the northern border town of Arsal, along with winter clothes, shoes and heaters.
The aid, distributed in late January, comes as part of the UAE Response Campaign for Displaced Syrians - Winter 2018, and is part of the Gulf state's international humanitarian response programme.
The three-day campaign took part across Lebanon, but focused on the border regions, where the majority of refugees have found temporary shelter.
It was conducted in co-operation with the Ministry of State for Displaced Affairs and the Lebanese Red Cross, the High Relief Commission and the Relief and Humanitarian Organisation of Dar al-Fatwa, the embassy said.
"The campaign was launched on January 26th in Beirut followed by Arsal and villages of the Arqoub and Hasbaya regions," UAE ambassador to Lebanon Hamad Saeed Sultan al-Shamsi told Al-Mashareq.
Aid also was distributed in Sidon and Tyre, the Kharroub region and Akkar, taking into account the situation in each area and the number of Syrian refugees they host, he added.
Emirati organisations contributing to the campaign included the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, Al-Rahma Charity Association, Sharjah Charity International, among others.
In order to provide aid to those who need it the most, the embassy surveys the situation on the ground with input from international organisations, government ministries and civil society organisations, al-Shamsi said.
The goal of this campaign and of UAE-sponsored development projects in various parts of Lebanon is to help the Lebanese government shoulder the burden of the Syrian refugee crisis, he said, and to "stand by our Syrian brothers".
Text messages to receive aid
A large number of Syrian refugee families received text messages "inviting them to come to the Dar al-Fatwa headquarters in Ras al-Sirj to receive the aid", said Khaled Raad, director of the Arsal-based Syrian education office in Lebanon.
Basic food items were distributed to about 4,000 families, he told Al-Mashareq.
"This year's campaign coincides with an increase in the needs of the refugees, due to the decline in World Food Programme aid to the point that the provision of monthly food allowance has been suspended for a large number of refugees," said Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin al-Merehbi.
The aid provided by the UAE campaign "meets a large portion of the needs of the refugees and host communities", he told Al-Mashareq.
But while this assistance helps, it "is not a solution, given the abject poverty the refugees are suffering from that has left them facing hunger", he said.
A large number of refugees live in areas that are disadvantaged to begin with, and whose host communities are poor, he noted.
This is particularly the case in the Wadi Khalid villages of Akkar and in Arsal, where the number of refugees exceeds the populations of the towns, and in other areas of the Bekaa Valley, he said.
"The needs are great, and what is being provided covers a portion of them until the contributions by donor countries become available," al-Merehbi said.
"The [UAE] aid came at just the right time," said Akifa Mahmoud Qassem, a Syrian refugee who lives in Arsal.
"Our financial situation is below zero, and the items I received will help me protect my five children from hunger and frost," she said.