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Critical gaps in Lebanon and Jordan spell looming destitution and despair for Syrian refugee families

Briefing notes

Critical gaps in Lebanon and Jordan spell looming destitution and despair for Syrian refugee families

6 June 2017
A Syrian woman in Mafraq, Jordan takes cash from an ATM after using the iris scan technology to identify herself. Many of the 80% of Syrian refugee living outside of camps rely heavily on UNHCR cash assistance.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warns that without urgent additional funding, some 60,000 Syrian refugee families will be cut from monthly cash assistance programmes in Lebanon and Jordan as early as July.

Vital parts of UNHCR’s response to the needs of Syrian refugees are critically underfunded. Additional contributions are urgently required to avoid dramatic and deep cuts to both basic and life-saving services to Syrian refugees in the second half of the year. 

Despite generous pledges, humanitarian programmes in support of Syrian refugee and communities hosting them are quickly running out of resources. The situation is most dramatic in Lebanon and Jordan where a number of direct cash assistance activities could dry up in less than four weeks. 

Syrian refugees in Lebanon – 70 per cent of whom are living under the national poverty line - say that without this lifeline, they don't know how they will manage to survive. For many, cash assistance is the only means of buying medicine for sick family members and paying off their bills and fast-accumulating debts. Refugees tell UNHCR that every month they struggle to pay their rent and face the threat of eviction.

Those who fled to Jordan face equally stark challenges. Refugees tell our staff that UNHCR monthly cash support means a meal a day, a better roof, their dignity. Now they fear losing everything. Many say would prefer to go back to Syria to die if they stop receiving this assistance. For every third family in the cash assistance programme in Jordan this is their sole source of income, making them particularly vulnerable to any cuts.

UNHCR scaled up and pioneered new approaches in delivery of cash assistance programmes in 2011 to assist massive number of Syrian refugees in the neighbouring middle-income countries. Well-established infrastructure and services meant that UNHCR could work with banks to deliver cash to refugees, reducing overheads and fraud, and giving a choice to refugees to buy what they needed, avoiding the stigma of distribution queues. They allow vulnerable families to cope with hardships of displacement and help them to restore their dignity. They have been key in helping refugee families to avoid destitution, exploitation or abuse and to evade resorting to child labour, early marriages, survival sex or other negative coping practices.

In Lebanon, where UNHCR urgently needs USD 116 million, direct cash assistance programmes for refugees will be affected first. These include a lifeline multi-purpose cash for 30,000 Syrian refugee families, a winter cash assistance for two months for another 174,000 families and protection cash assistance for 1,500 refugee households to help them overcome periods of hardship. The funding gap also jeopardises 65,000 life-saving secondary health care interventions and support to UNHCR’s and the Lebanese Authorities’ capacity to issue and renew  documentation for refugees, following a recent decision to waive the residency renewal fees which most refugees could not afford. 

Meanwhile in Jordan, we urgently require USD 71 million to provide monthly cash assistance for 30,000 Syrian refugee families, support to the estimated 60,000 Syrians stranded at the Syria-Jordan border, secure 115,000 primary health consultations and 12,000 referrals to secondary health care services for refugees in camps and urban areas as well as to ensure timely support this winter for 35,000 Syrians.

More than five million Syrians live as refugees in neighbouring countries. This makes Syrians the largest refugee group in the world. Another 6.3 million are displaced inside Syria.

Mid-way through this year, the 2017 inter-agency appeal (USD 4.6 billion) to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees across the Middle East and North Africa is only 18 per cent funded. Given the challenges of responding to humanitarian needs at such a scale and across the entire region, early and adequate contributions are vital to ensure timely and planned delivery of refugee protection and aid programmes.


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