Bekaa and Baalbek/Hermel Governorates

The Bekaa valley region is administratively split into two governorates: Baalbek/Hermel (located in the north) and Bekaa (located in the south). Along the Bekaa region lies Lebanon’s largest official border crossing with Syria, located in the Masnaa locality. The sectarian composition of the Bekaa region is mixed: Baalbek/Hermel governorate hosts a predominantly Shiite majority with pockets of Christians and Sunnis; Bekaa governorate hosts a more diverse group of religious sects namely Christians, Sunnis, Shiites and Druze -- with no notable majority.

Mostly rural, the region’s economy relies largely on agricultural production, with accordant employment concentration. 51 UN agencies and NGOs have a presence across the region. Regular inter-agency and sector coordination meetings are held in Zahle, located in Bekaa governorate.

Context

The situation along Bekaa’s north eastern border with Syria remains volatile. In the past nine months, security in Bekaa was shaped by the intensifying conflict in the Qalamoun border region in Syria and its spill over into northern Bekaa. Syrian Armed Forces and its allies have controlled Qalamoun since August 2015, however, Islamist Armed Opposition Groups (I/AOGs) remain present, particularly in the outskirts of Aarsal and Ras Baalbek on the Lebanese side.

Attempts by armed groups on the Syrian side to conduct operations in Lebanon are regularly reported in the outskirts of Aarsal and Ras Baalbek, as well as heavy shelling and fighting between I/AOGs and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF); the latter are supported by Hezbollah to strengthen control over the border area. The high level of military activity in the outskirts of Aarsal have, at times, curtailed the free movement of civilian populations and compromised humanitarian activities. To date, neither civilians nor aid workers operating in Bekaa constitute the main targets of attacks or threats by armed groups operating in the region.

Humanitarian activities and protection services continue to be regularly delivered, albeit subject to the evolving security situation. Across the region, Lebanese authorities are widely present to address security concerns. Lebanese security actors are engaged in deterring and preventing extremism. The LAF has been engaged in ad hoc evictions of persons living in those Informal Settlements in proximity to military facilities and assets, and along vital supply routes. In 2015, 131 Informal Settlements were affected by eviction notices impacting 14,648 refugees who were forced to relocate from 75 sites; 39 entirely vacated and 36 vacated partially.

Humanitarian trends

The Bekaa region has the received highest number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and hosts 69 per cent of all Informal Settlements in the country, making it host to the largest concentration of Informal Settlements. Some 365,555 refugees from Syria have been registered in Bekaa region, comprising a population increase of 67 per cent over the past four years in this region alone. Over 39 per cent of said refugees in Lebanon are currently residing in one of the 2,564 Informal Settlements located in the Bekaa region (includes Baalbek/Hermel), of which 59 per cent are located in Bekaa governorate and 41 per cent in Baalbek-Hermel governorate.

Preliminary results of the on-going household profiling exercise indicate that 41 per cent of Syrian refugees living in the Bekaa are considered severely vulnerable and 35 per cent considered highly vulnerable. Prior to the crisis, the region had a high prevalence of extreme poverty with 11 per cent of the population living below the extreme poverty line of USD$2.40 per day, particularly in the areas of Baalbek and Hermel. The refugee influx has placed unprecedented strain on an already marginalized and poor region with fragile services and public infrastructure.A recurring and urgent humanitarian issue in the region is winterization, given the high concentration of refugees coupled with the high altitude of the region.

During the winter months humanitarian assistance was delivered to the most vulnerable households, including Lebanese and Palestine refugees, totalling some 74 per cent (equiv. 74,000 HH) of persons in need. Assistance packages included cash transfers in the form of ATM cards and some fuel vouchers ($147/HH per month for five months), in-kind distributions (i.e. blanket, clothes, plastic sheeting) and site and shelter improvement. In addition to support of most vulnerable persons, assistance is being given to municipalities identified as highly vulnerable towards strengthening their capacity to host population increases. In 2015, 56 projects totalling $3 million were implemented in 52 out of 65 municipalities identified as most vulnerable. These projects focused on capacity-building and basic service provision towards mitigating the socio-economic impact of the crisis and easing host community tensions. In addition, minor infrastructure rehabilitation and cleaning services were implemented in 26 municipalities to generate income for local communities.