• UNDP and partners support Palestine refugees in the ‘gatherings’
• Needs outstrip resources for people with disabilities
• New alert system allows prompt response to harsh weather in the North
• Innovative project addresses refugee men’s protection needs
• London Pledging Conference mobilizes funds for Lebanon
People in Need
Palestinian gatherings in Lebanon: When refugees become host communities Palestinians in Lebanon, one of the country’s most vulnerable communities, face increasing challenges as they host and support high numbers of Palestine refugees who have fled Syria. The 42 Palestinian ‘gatherings’ – informal communities of refugees located outside the boundaries of the 12 official refugee camps – are among the most deprived host communities in Lebanon. Palestine refugees in Lebanon (PRL) and from Syria (PRS) live in precarious conditions in overcrowded areas amid poverty, insufficient services, and limited access to income-generating activities. High unemployment rates have been amplified by the refugee influx which is fostering increased competition over resources, services and jobs, occasionally leading to social tensions The approximately 140,000 Palestinians in the gatherings – who are among the 320,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Lebanon – face a number of stark challenges.
These include the lack of services, as UNRWA only provides basic urban services inside the refugee camps; eviction threats, as Palestinians are not allowed to own property in Lebanon; severe restrictions in the labour market; and the lack of communal spaces for children and youth. Humanitarian data and needs assessments on these communities are scarce, and protection monitoring visits irregular because of a shortage of partners working in the gatherings.
UNDP and partners are working with municipalities nonetheless to cover some of these gaps by providing some urban services and upgrading shelters and hygiene conditions in the gatherings. In the new initiative ‘Empowering Local Women Health Educators’, UNDP and the national NGO Beit Atfal Assumoud are starting a project to train 110 women (80 per cent Palestinian and 20 per cent Lebanese) in 20 Palestinian gatherings on hygiene, sexual and reproductive health rights. The training is covering areas including sexual abuse, domestic violence, gender-based violence and child protection. The women will serve as focal points on protection services, and will be paid to transfer their skills to other women through awareness sessions and community development. This intervention builds on previous UNDP hygiene activities for women in the gatherings. Among other recent initiatives, the Welfare Association and PARD are supporting livelihood opportunities in nine gatherings by providing compost to enable families to grow fruit and vegetables. The Gatherings Working Group, chaired by UNDP, convenes monthly to coordinate the response and identify gaps and challenges.
Syria crisis has strong impact on people with disabilities
Persons with disabilities, both within the refugee population and the Lebanese host community, are particularly affected by the consequences of the ongoing conflict in Syria amid the severe strain on basic services in the country.
According to the Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees (VASyR 2015), approximately 30,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon have a physical or mental disability, and almost 7 percent of refugee households have at least one working age member with a disability. Organizations working on disabilities estimate that the real figure is likely to be higher – the 2014 report by Handicap International, ‘Hidden Victims of the Syria Crisis’, estimated that 20 percent of Syrian refugees (or around 200,000 people) had an impairment. Organizations attribute the under-reporting of disabilities to several factors, including limitations in the identification/registration process and the “exclusion” of people with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, from needs assessments.
With another 93,000 Lebanese carrying a disability card, the needs of the disabled exceed the available services in Lebanon, especially in terms of assistive devices, rehabilitation services and mental health care. Older persons, persons suffering from trauma, and persons with disabilities are often among the most vulnerable in any community.
Programmes to support persons with disabilities include rehabilitation services and assistive devices provided by the World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF), Handicap International (HI), Fundacion Promocion Social de la Cultura (FPSC), and the Movement for Peace (MPDL), among others. Community-based and local NGOs such as Arc-en-ciel, Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union (LPHU), and others have also been providing rehabilitation services in host communities across Lebanon. Despite these initiatives, however, rehabilitation needs significantly exceed the available services, especially in terms of specialized rehabilitation services and mental health care.
A ‘Disability and Older Age Working Group’ (DaOAWG) was established in Lebanon in June 2013 to advocate for the rights and needs of persons with disabilities among refugees and within host communities, and for their inclusion in the humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis. It has also been advocating for comprehensive assessments on the number of refugees with disabilities, their geographical distribution, types of disabilities, and needs. Support from the Protection Working Group has enabled the inclusion of disability and older age issues in several emergency assistance plans, including the LCRP for 2016.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.