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Situation Analysis of Youth in Lebanon Affected by the Syrian Crisis

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The Syrian crisis entered its fourth year in 2014. Nearly 2.2 million refugees had been registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey by the end of 2013 - without including non-registered Syrian and non-Syrian refugees. With the continuing violence and insecurity in Syria, the number of refugees in the region is expected to reach over 4 million by the end of 2014.

Assessments have shown that this massive influx of refugees from Syria has affected the neighbouring countries on various levels; economic, social, political and as regards security.

In Lebanon alone, the registered number of Syrian refugees reached 1,030,413 persons by end-May 2014, with youth aged 15-24 years constituting approximately 16 per cent.

The impact of the humanitarian situation on affected adolescents and youth in Lebanon has not been documented or broadly addressed due to limitations on funding and capacity.

In a humanitarian context, both children - particularly unaccompanied children or those separated from their families - as well as adolescents and youth, especially young females, are among the most vulnerable. It is well documented globally, including in Lebanon, that humanitarian responses to a great extent focus on children below age 18 years, while adolescents and youth, however, are considered to be more resilient and, thus, of a lesser priority.

This study illustrates how youth are greatly affected by the crisis in various ways, especially when displaced from their homes. Challenges include separation from social and community networks, including family; discontinuation of formal and non-formal education; loss of livelihood; lack of, or weakened security and protection mechanisms and networks; disruption of, or decreased access to health services; adaptation to a new environment; and increase in daily free time - all of which may pose a risk for youth in the long run.

Adolescents and youth also have particular experiences within a humanitarian context. They sometimes feel humiliated from becoming dependent on external assistance. They experience being under extra pressure, especially female youth, to abide by traditional norms and roles, to marry early and be confined within the home. Feelings of fear, sadness, anger, idleness, boredom, despondency and pessimism, loss of control, frustration, imprisonment and discrimination arise, consequently affecting the psychosocial health and other conditions of youth.

The humanitarian setting exacerbates basic needs for social services, among others. Without access to such services, youth vulnerability to poverty and violence increases, including sexual violence and sexual abuse and exploitation. It obliges youth to assume the role of adults at an early age without being prepared for this, in the absence of positive adult role models or support networks. Sometimes, this leads to risky behaviour, including criminal activities, survival sex, unsafe sexual relationships, violence and substance use. For economic and protection reasons, some might drop out of school to work, enter into early or child marriage in return for food, protection and/or shelter to support themselves and their family.

The results of this situation analysis confirm the above-mentioned vulnerabilities and risks. The findings determine the need to collectively address youth affected by the Syrian crisis across sectors; more precisely, shelter, education, livelihood, health, protection and social cohesion.

There are several dimensions that must be taken into consideration by humanitarian actors to enable the affected youth population - i.e. Syrian refugees aged 15-24, as well as youth in host communities - to live with dignity, fulfil their potentials and empower themselves in becoming ‘positive-change agents’.

First - and while one cannot underestimate the many efforts deployed so far by various humanitarian actors - the strengthening and scaling-up of these successful interventions are priorities.

Second, multisectoral comprehensiveness of approaches is another essential aspect that must be adequately addressed by humanitarian relief agencies.

Last, but not least, coordination and partnership constitute one fundamental element that is necessary for ensuring synergy and complementarity.

As humanitarian agencies with a mandate to support the efforts of the Lebanese government in responding to the Syrian crisis in Lebanon, we are committed to continue addressing the needs of youth using a fully participatory approach, and applying a human rights-based approach and a culture lens in alignment with the Regional Response Plan, while building on the wealth of information generated by this landmark situation analysis.