Syrian refugee crisis: Lebanon overburdened by refugee needs

Two years after the start of Syria’s civil war, Lebanon struggles to accommodate Syrian refugees who have settled throughout the country.

By Chris Huber, World Vision U.S.
Published February 12, 2013 at 12:00am PST

When Syrians began fleeing their country’s civil war in early 2011, neighboring Lebanon welcomed them into its homes and communities.

Many Lebanese even picked them up at the Syria-Lebanon border to expedite their sudden flight from the violence.

Nearly two years later, though, resentment among their hosts has surfaced as Lebanon struggles to accommodate the 250,000 Syrian refugees who have settled throughout the country.

Refugee population strains resources

More than 60 percent of the refugees are now renting their own homes.

But their presence — in hundreds of villages across the country — has depleted supplies in pharmacies, increased competition for jobs, raised the price of housing, and, in some cases, more than doubled the population of certain towns or villages, according to the United Nations.

The Lebanese government opened its public schools to Syrian children. Aid agencies have provided everything from water and sanitation facilities, to food vouchers and monthly housing stipends to Syrian families.

Including refugees, about 811,000 Syrians now live in Lebanon. An additional 450,000 Palestinian refugees live in the country. This guest population of more than 1.2 million equals about one-quarter of Lebanon’s citizen population.

And security forces are reporting more crimes involving Syrians, as both aggressors and victims.

World Vision’s response

To help ease the strain on communities, World Vision is helping to provide food vouchers to as many as 30,000 people.

About 5,900 families have received hygiene kits, blankets, clothes, and other household items. More than 1,000 people received cooking stoves and fuel for three months.

We have also set up Child-Friendly Spaces to provide safe places for children to learn and play.

Also, ongoing community development programs benefit about 50,000 Lebanese people, including nearly 20,000 sponsored children. These projects that provide support for both hosts and refugees help diffuse tension.

International community hears plea

In a sign that host countries’ appeals for aid are being heard, international donors pledged $1.5 billion to help millions in the region affected by the brutal war, with approximately $1 billion earmarked for Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

The remaining $500 million is for humanitarian aid to Syrians displaced inside their country.

It remains unclear when government and donor aid will come specifically to Lebanese host communities, or how it will be distributed.

“We are watching a human tragedy unfold before our eyes,” UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos says.

How you can help

Pray for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and for Lebanese host communities struggling to support the refugee population. Pray for an end to the conflict so that Syrian families may return home.

Make a one-time gift to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Your gift will help us provide basic hygiene kits, food vouchers for refugee families, and established Child-Friendly Spaces to provide affected children with a safe place to play, learn, and interact with their peers.

Give monthly to support children affected by war and conflict. Your monthly donation will help bring assistance to those in greatest need, like trauma counseling, nutritious food, clean water, medical care, protection for children living alone, and more.