The Syria crisis has had a profound humanitarian, socio-economic and political impact on Lebanon and its people. With just under 1 million registered Syrian refugees in a country of 4 million inhabitants, Lebanon has the world’s highest number of refugees per capita. This population is in addition to an estimated 1 million vulnerable Lebanese and almost 300,000 Palestine refugees. This mass influx of refugees from Syria has placed unprecedented strain on the country’s economy, public services, and infrastructure. Spill-over from the fighting in Syria, combined with internal political tensions, also continues to threaten internal stability and security.
Lebanon has been a generous host to refugees, and the authorities have taken encouraging steps towards enabling more refugees to obtain residency and reducing barriers to legal work in certain sectors. However, as the crisis become increasingly protracted, there are signs of rising social tensions, driven primarily by perceived job competition. At this key juncture, it is essential to maintain international support and solidarity for Lebanon, particularly in the areas of basic livelihoods, social stability, and long-term economic stability.
The population living in Lebanon has grown by 28 per cent in less than five years as a result of the Syria crisis, putting serious pressure on public services and host communities. Residency and employment restrictions introduced at the end of 2014 have forced many refugees into an uncertain legal status, adversely affecting their access to services and livelihoods. As the situation becomes increasingly protracted, vulnerable populations in Lebanon are suffering the cumulative impact of depleted savings, growing debt, and increased difficulty in accessing income. As a result, poverty and food insecurity levels are high with 27 to 30 percent of people in Lebanon living beneath the national poverty line. Among refugees, the situation is dire, with an alarming 76 per cent of Syrian refugees under the poverty line, along with 65 per cent of Palestine refugees in Lebanon (PRL) and 89 per cent of Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS).
Unemployment remains high in many of the country’s poorest localities, placing considerable strain on host communities. Assessments indicate that employment is the most important issue among Lebanese youth, above even security and basic services. More than 500,000 youth between 15-24 (both Lebanese and Syrian) are considered particularly “at risk,” meaning they are both out of school and have no formal employment.
Despite progress, education remains a key challenge. More than 250,000 refugee children remain out of school. Another area of concern is shelter. Refugees live in inadequate shelters lacking basic amenities, access to safe water, protection from exposure, or connections to municipal infrastructure and services.
About OCHA in Lebanon
OCHA established its presence in Lebanon in 2012 in the form of a Humanitarian Advisory Team composed of two persons. As the crisis evolved, additional capacity arrived throughout 2013, and it was decided in October 2013 to establish a full-fledged Country Office.
OCHA Lebanon’s focus areas include:
- Enhancing coordination mechanisms at the strategic level, in support of the HC, the HCT and the Intersector to improve planning and monitoring of a joined-up response across all sectors.
- Mobilizing flexible, predictable humanitarian funding through the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund.
- Strengthening situational awareness in a fluid context as well as the analysis of humanitarian needs, gaps, and response.
- Advocating for improved protection for refugees and humanitarian access for humanitarian actors.
In addition to its focus on Lebanon, the office also provides support to the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis and is involved in relevant Whole of Syria fora.
Philippe Lazzarini is serving as Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL), UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Lebanon since August 2015.
Prior to his current assignment, he was the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, where he also served as UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. Before that he held a number of senior positions in the United Nations for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and in various field positions in Iraq, Angola, Somalia and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Before joining the United Nations in 2003, Mr. Lazzarini was heading the marketing department of a private bank in Geneva. He also served for 10 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the deputy Head of Communication, Head of the ICRC delegation in Rwanda, Angola, and Sarajevo and as an ICRC delegate in Southern Sudan, Jordan, Gaza, and Beirut.
Mr. Lazzarini graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Neuchatel and holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Lausanne. He is married and has three children.
He can be followed on twitter @UNLazzarini