Funding gap threatens refugee response in Lebanon

News Stories, 10 April 2013

© UNHCR/S.Malkawi
Two young Syrian refugees in a collective shelter in Lebanon. Programmes for the refugees are being affected by funding shortages.

BEIRUT, Lebanon, April 10 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and its UN and NGO partner organizations have warned that basic programmes and humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees in Lebanon are being cut because of a lack of funding.

"The plans are in place, the staff is ready, but the funds are drying up," said Ninette Kelley, UNHCR's representative in Lebanon, adding that UNHCR and its partners were being forced to choose between compelling programmes. "At this level of funding, vital programmes to ensure food, clean water, schooling for children, health care and shelter for newly arrived refugees are simply impossible," she stressed.

There are more than 400,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a country with a population of over 4 million. And the inflow continues with some 3,000 people registered every day. The last inter-agency funding appeal estimated the refugee population at 300,000 by mid-June. The appeal has been only one third funded.

"In one month, and with the current funding, more than 400,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon will no longer receive food assistance," Etienne Labande, head of country operation for the World Food Programme in Lebanon, was quoted as saying in a joint press statement released by UNHCR, the World Food Programme and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). "I am extremely concerned that without continued funding we will see increased tensions and further displacement in an already tense environment."

The number of Syrian refugees unable to pay their monthly rent is increasing and more families are finding themselves at risk of being evicted. Agencies have so far weatherproofed 700 dwellings and rehabilitated more than 100 collective shelters.

Thousands of refugees have also benefitted from rehabilitation work on host community houses and another 44 buildings have been identified as suitable for repair work. But this cannot be done because of the funding shortages.

The risks of overcrowding in existing shelters is very real and this is also causing increasing tension with host communities. Lack of services and support for refugees and host communities is another concern.

"Health care is a significant part of the budget. Secondary health care interventions at the 85 per cent level will have to be reduced," this week's press statement said. "Currently over 11,000 refugees benefit from primary health care support on a monthly basis, and an additional 3,000 receive secondary health care."

It said the risk of diarrhoea, hepatitis A and skin diseases would also increase without investment in improving water and sanitation programmes. "With summer fast approaching, receiving the funds to start these projects in the coming month is vital," the press statement said.

On the education front, some 30,000 Syrian children have registered in Lebanese public schools and received assistance with school grants. Many adolescents require further support, including remedial classes to help them adapt or catch up and continue attending school.

"The children affected by this crisis making up more than half of the refugee population are facing challenges that risk a lasting, disastrous impact on their lives," warned UNICEF official Annamaria Laurini. "If significant additional funding is not received soon, UNICEF will be unable to respond to exponentially growing needs of these most vulnerable victims of this human tragedy."