As the Syria conflict further escalates, refugees continue to cross borders to seek safety in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. According to the U.N., the number of Syrians who have registered as refugees -- or are being assisted in these countries -- now exceeds 540,000, with an increase of over 140,000 during the past six weeks alone.
I recently traveled to eastern Lebanon to work with Mercy Corps and assist the refugees who have fled their homes in Syria. It was a cold, foggy day with a constant downpour of icy rain.
When we crossed the mountains into the Bekaa Valley, the rain turned to a wet snow and a hard wind lashed at us the entire day.
Lebanon continues to host the largest Syrian refugee community, with over 170,000 refugees -- and they continue to stream across the border. More than 13,000 have arrived in Lebanon over the past several days as the fighting and airstrikes in Syria have intensified.
We met tired and scared families getting off trucks after their 24-hour escape from Syria. Mothers told me accounts of hearing explosions and leaving by foot at dusk, saying they couldn't see the scene in the dark to describe it, but they could smell and feel the dust from the explosions.
The kids were scared and many were holding back a flood of tears. The freezing, slushy rain made the situation more desperate and urgent.
The refugee situation here is different to what we see in most other countries. Almost all the refugees in Lebanon are in host families or self-made tents constructed from scrap materials such as dismantled billboards.
The colorful toothpaste and food advertisements that have been turned into shelters make for a strange sight. They are scattered across the country in over 540 locations. There are no official refugee camps like you find in Jordan and Turkey, which makes providing assistance even more challenging.
The families are arriving in the snow and bitter cold conditions. They are carrying plastic bags with the few items they could bring with them as they fled the violence in their country.
It seems everywhere you look you see refugees standing out in the street, in the mud, with their plastic bags. Most of them have nowhere to go, so we are providing them with temporary shelter in a training center until they can find another place.