27/01/2014 06:29 GMT | Updated 28/03/2014 05:59 GMT

Geneva 2: It's Not Just Peace That's a Priority for Syrians, It's Survival


[A young girl in one of the Bekaa Valley refugee camps. PHOTO/Sara Firth]

Far from the conference corridors at the Geneva 2 talks - the corridors of the UNHCR's Beirut office are bustling.

Outside in the morning sun hundreds of Syrian refugees have already gathered in long queues.

They're waiting.

It's approximately 3000km between this refugee centre (one of 4 the UNHCR has in Lebanon) and the gathering of world leaders who are debating Syria's fate.

That distance is an estimate. Another estimate is 880,000 - that's the number of Syrian refugees the UNHCR say have now entered Lebanon and have been registered or are waiting to be registered.

'We register on a daily basis an average of 3,000 refugees across the country' Joelle Eid of the UNHCR tells me.

But as the unofficial camps strewn across Lebanon are testament too - there are many more who are unregistered and the real number of Syrian refugees that are now in Lebanon is thought to be closer to upward of 1.5million.


[Waiting in line at the UNHCR registration centre Beirut. PHOTO/Sara Firth]

In the queue for registration I meet Walaa Hussein Taleb, and her son Abed Karim whose nearly 2 years old and baby Samar whose just 2 and a half months old and was born in Lebanon.

A child of this growing displaced generation.

They come from Aleppo which Walaa says is 'in the eye of the fire' right now.

We get into a discussion about the children and another woman - arrived 6 months ago from Damascus joins the conversation.

Lina Alazizi and her husband worked as schoolteachers before the violence caused them to flee. 

They were internally displaced for months inside Syria before eventually ending up in Lebanon. 

For the time being they are home schooling their children. 

But across Lebanon right now there are currently 200,000 children of school age out of education.

Despite the UNCHR's efforts which for 2013-2014 have so far seen 90,000 Syrian children registered in Lebanese public schools and the introduction of second shifts in schools - there simply isn't the space.

'They smile and all they wish is to go to school and it breaks our heart that they want to go to school so badly and the capacity is not there.' Joelle tells me.


[A boy with his grandfather outside the UNHCR registration centre Beirut. PHOTO/Sara Firth]

Later on in the day I meet a woman at one of the distribution centres that hand out non food items - hygiene kits and diapers for the children.

She tells me she left Syria after her husband was kidnapped and killed. When I ask her how she feels about the Geneva 2 talks she shakes her head 'I'm not optimistic. Both sides have their own strategy. It's all talk, it's just speech - where is the human rights?'

If there's a sense of hopelessness at the political situation one clear message that those gathered at Geneva 2 can take from the vast number of Syrian people displaced in this small neighbouring country is that there is much more that can be done to aid the humanitarian efforts.

Practical steps that can be agreed to provide humanitarian access, food, medicine, education to those inside Syria and outside who need it most.

For many as this conflict rages on the primary focus, today, tomorrow and in the coming days is not peace but survival.

Ultimately though of course they want the chance to return home and rebuild their country.

'A person without their home is nothing' Elham Al Nasar sadly tells me as she cradles her baby and waits for registration.

The lines have grown even longer by the time I leave.

For now the fraught talks continue in Geneva.

In Lebanon the UNHCR offices will begin another busy week of registrations.

And the Syrian people will keep on waiting.