West Cork engineers help for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

November 6th, 2015 11:52 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Pat O'Halloran from Newcestown with Concern press officer Michael Commane in the Concern office in Halba, northern Lebanon

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AN engineer from Newcestown is doing great work to help the thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing into Northern Lebanon in recent months. 

Pat O’Halloran, who now lives in Ballinora, works for Concern Worldwide and has been based in the northern town of Halba not far from the Syrian border since April 2104. 

Pat previously spent two years working with Concern in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake there and he also worked in Malawi in the late 70s as well as with Irish Aid in Lesotho between 1992 and 1998.

‘I have spent 25 per cent of my working life in overseas humanitarian work and the rest in construction in Cork. In Haiti, Concern was involved in reconstruction and now my work here involves supporting infrastructure for approximately 250,000 Syrian refugees and local Lebanese,’ Pat told The Southern Star.

‘The work can be divided into three areas: writing proposals for donor funding to support Concern programmes, mentoring a local Lebanese team in managing the projects and thirdly, working closely with local councils and communities to make sure projects are delivered to good standards and within budget restraints and on time.’

Pat had just carried out a site visit at Tal-Abbass, just 5km from Bebnine, which is a 30-minute drive from Halba where Concern is based.

‘Concern is constructing a 100 cubic metre concrete water tower there and they have developed a water well and constructed a 1.5km transmission line to transfer the water from the well to the tower. The completed project will provide water to 3,000 beneficiaries.’

Pat also said that when refugees came in their thousands in 2013, their only means of shelter were plastic tents and they had no water or hygiene facilities but Concern subsequently provided those.

‘Right now we are also constructing a number of new concrete culverts to replace old dilapidated structures to provide for greater flow during periods of very heavy rain. Such works will prevent flooding into the refugee tents. All our work is done in conjunction and with the approval of the local authorities.’

‘Concern has installed clean water and toilet facilities in 138 settlements and cleaning the septic tanks and bringing in clean water is costing €35,000 a month,’ added Pat.

Pat grew up in Templemartin and is one of 15 children. He is a past pupil of Farranferris and then went on to study Civil Engineering at UCC, graduating in 1973. 

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