The explosion in the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020 was the last in a series of misfortunes to befall Lebanon’s population. The disaster came at a time of political and economic turmoil, with the financial crisis compounded by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Syrian refugees make up more than 20% of Lebanon’s population, the highest refugees-to-population ratio in the world. A growing number of Lebanese and refugees is increasingly vulnerable and destitute. Hours after the blast, EU Civil Protection teams and supplies arrived in Beirut while the EU also maintained its humanitarian aid in the country.
What are the needs?
The dire situation resulting from the political impasse and socio-economic crisis, further exacerbated by COVID-19 and port blast, continues to reduce people’s purchasing power. Lebanese and refugees are increasingly struggling to buy food, pay rent and access health care, with high inflation and stark currency devaluation worsening the situation. The Beirut blast left 200 people dead and over 7,500 injured. Areas close to the port that are still in need of repairs are among the capital’s poorest, housing vulnerable Lebanese, migrants and refugees.
Unfavourable to integration, Lebanon has not wanted to establish formal camps for Syrian refugees. This has forced many families into inferior accommodation, exposed to harsh weather conditions. Before the coronavirus outbreak, half of all refugee families were surviving daily on less than $2.9 per person, and 58% of their school-aged children were out of school. Recent findings show that 9 out of 10 Syrian refugee families in Lebanon now live in extreme poverty, up from 55% only a year before. Some 92% of households are in debt, the overall level of which keeps rising.
According to a UN survey, 8 in 10 elderly, disabled or chronically ill refugees have had to reduce food intake during recent lockdowns triggered by COVID-19. With 69% of households having no members with legal residency, many Syrian refugees do not have legal documentation. This restricts their freedom of movement and access to basic services and employment. With evictions on the rise, refugees are increasingly considering a return to Syria, where the conflict has entered its 11th year.