Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Vulnerable and Reliant on Aid, Study Shows

Annual VASyR Study with UNICEF, WFP Shows Food Insecurity Rising; Share of Households Below Poverty Line at 71 percent

Syrian refugees in Lebanon remain highly vulnerable after many years living in the country, according to a benchmark study from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UN partner agencies. 

Household surveys conducted by UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP revealed that the economic plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is, at best, as serious as last year.  Under some criteria, their plight continues to deteriorate.

The annual study found families had exhausted their limited resources, and were adapting to survive on the bare minimum, deploying harmful or asset-depleting coping mechanisms to survive. It showed over one third of refugees were moderately to severely food insecure, an increase of 12 percentage points compared to 2015. The share of households living below the poverty line remained at an alarming 71 percent. 

“Syrian refugees in Lebanon are barely coping,” said Amin Awad, Director of the UNHCR’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau. “They remain extremely vulnerable and dependent on aid from the international community. Without continued support, their situation would be appalling.”

The survey, known as the Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees (VASyR), was the fourth of its kind. The findings are used in a variety of ways, including to help determine recipients of funding and other support.

It found that more than half of refugee households had a total per capita expenditure below the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB), a measure of items deemed essential for a household’s survival. While this figure stabilized at a national level, the share of households in the SMEB category increased more than 50 percent in certain districts. Further serious challenges were identified in the areas of residency, education and housing.

Still, the injection of much-needed assistance was able to halt the sharp decline into poverty that was observed between 2014 and 2015. As of November 2016, USD 1 billion had been received, just 50 percent, of a joint UN, government and inter-agency appeal for the country. 

Compared to the previous year, the situation of refugees had not deteriorated dramatically in terms of health, education, shelter, water, hygiene, solid waste and energy, thanks to the financial support of the international community and the careful programming of humanitarian operations.

Lebanon is the second largest host of Syrian refugees after Turkey, with over a million registered in the small country. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are scattered in urban and rural environments, including approximately 2,125 communities and locations.

Data for the report was collected in May and June last year. Survey teams visited 4,500 Syrian refugee households randomly selected from 26 districts. The full report - which is available here - details a series of recommendations that will inform future humanitarian programming in Lebanon.


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