Basterna, 40, from Raqqa in Syria washes clothes by hand at an informal settlement for Syrian refugees near the town of Baalbek in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, on January 26, 2016. Credit:Sam Tarling

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According to the 2014 Global Wealth Report (Credit Suisse) Lebanon ranks sixth in the world for wealth inequality, with 0.3% of the population owning 50% of the population’s wealth. Over the years, Lebanese governments have consistently struggled to provide comprehensive policies that reflect public needs and interests. Cycles of internal, regional and international stresses have hampered Lebanon’s development, perpetuated fragility, and exacerbated social and political tensions, reflecting systemic structural problems. In addition, as a small and diverse state with 18 officially recognized religious groups, Lebanon is highly linked to regional tensions and fluctuations.

Country in Crisis

Since the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, Syrians escaping violence and persecution, sought refuge in neighboring Lebanon. As a result, Lebanon’s population of just over 4 million has swelled by 30% with an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria, of which 1.017 million (November 2016) are UNHCR registered refugees, and 43,377 Palestine Refugees from Syria. This is in addition to the approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees already present in Lebanon. Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world with 1 in 4 people a refugee.

The majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been welcomed by the poorest Lebanese communities. About 86% of Syrian refugees live in 242 communities where 66% of Lebanese are living on less than $4 a day. By the end of 2014, it is estimated that approximately 170,000 additional Lebanese were pushed into poverty as a result of the social, economic, demographic, and political crisis facing the country.

Lebanon does not have a specific law or policy on asylum and refugees and is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol. As a result, refugees in Lebanon do not have access to a single national legal mechanism for comprehensive protection of the rights they should enjoy under international law. 

Oxfam in Lebanon 

Oxfam has been present in Lebanon since 1993. Oxfam, with national partners, has been providing humanitarian assistance to those affected by emergency situations in the country, while at the same time maintaining long term partnerships in areas of economic development, municipal service delivery and women's rights. As a result of the Syria conflict Oxfam has, like many humanitarian organizations, scaled up activities in Lebanon in response to the resulting refugee flows.

Oxfam works with local partners to contribute to the protection and empowerment of marginalized women and men (Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian populations including refugees) to enjoy their basic rights, enabling them to live in dignity within a more equitable society.

  • Oxfam works with partners to address governance issues, including supporting the provision of basic services to people living in poverty in Lebanon, a crucial complement to any humanitarian assistance to refugee populations – in addition to promoting transparent, accountable resource management and equitable wealth distribution. Based on value chain analysis, Oxfam also works to promote small businesses in relevant markets and works with the private sector to create job opportunities for women and youth. With its particular focus on working with women and youth, Oxfam aims to strengthen a rights-based approach to active citizenship at local and national levels.
  • Oxfam provides WASH assistance to address the immediate needs of Syrian refugees, residing in informal tented settlements in North Bekaa, by providing them with safe and adequate water in terms of quality and quantity including associated water storage capacity, and the provision of adequate sanitation facilities and services including the construction of latrine facilities, desludging of latrine pits and provision of heavy duty solid waste containers.
  • Within protection work, Oxfam is utilizing a community-based approach which seeks to strengthen local capacity to self-identify risks, take steps to mitigate them and to provide information and referral services. This approach also provides opportunities for women to take on more community-based leadership roles. Oxfam works to respond to the protection needs of the target populations connecting and strengthening relationships between services providers, beneficiaries and local authorities wherever feasible. Oxfam’s priority is to cooperate with specialized national or local protection organisations, to work together within specific locations to provide a more holistic spectrum of protection services for women and men including legal aid and prevention of domestic and gender based violence. Oxfam has been championing women’s rights and empowerment in Lebanon for over 10 years. Empowering women through economic engagement to take a stronger role in decision making at home and within communities, and promoting women’s access to justice are core components of Oxfam’s work.