When disasters and conflict collide: Lebanon

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Lebanon students get classes in surviving war and disasters

For students at Takmiliyat Al Koubba 2nd School in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, getting an education used to mean risking their lives in a hail of bullets.

Pupils would dash down the exposed steps at the school, which was caught on the boundary between two warring sects, hoping to reach safety. But not all made it.

Mekdad Dergham, 8, was killed as he left the school in 2010.

"This child, for his bad luck, he was going back downstairs to go home and unfortunately he didn't arrive. The bullet was faster than him," headmistress Raghida Abdel El Hamid Chamsin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, speaking from her office.

"I still remember he was in the third grade. Every year, I would say, 'If he was still alive he would be in fourth grade', next year I would say 'He should be in the fifth grade'."

Now the school is working with the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC) to train children on how to stay safe during conflicts and disasters.

Around the world, people facing multiple threats, from worsening storms to violent uprisings, often are helped to deal with just one at a time, leaving them still vulnerable to others, researchers say.

But joining up preparedness efforts - as is happening in Lebanon - can save both cash and lives, they say.

In Lebanon, the war in neighbouring Syria that erupted in 2011, with mostly Sunni rebels battling to topple Alawite President Bashar al-Assad, triggered Lebanon's worst instability since its own 1975-90 civil war.

This included several bouts of fighting in Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city and a historic base for Sunni Islamist groups, that left hundreds dead and injured.

But as well as struggling to cope with conflict, Lebanon's six million people also face natural hazards: the country is crossed by three major earthquake fault lines and is at risk of flooding, landslides, wildfires and storms.


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Country and region Lebanon Syrian Arab Republic
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