Imm prepares coffee in the makeshift kitchen of her tent. On the outskirts of 111, a village nestled into the north of the Beqaa valley, eastern Lebanon, 30KM away from the Syrian borders. Credit: Adrian Hartrick/Oxfam

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With a history of conflict and one of the highest rates of wealth inequality in the world, Lebanon already faced considerable pre-crisis challenges, such as high unemployment rates, poverty, weak public services and corruption. The Syria crisis has exacerbated this situation, and the poorest are paying the price. The areas that already suffered from the greatest pre-crisis inequalities in public services and infrastructure development are now hosting the majority of refugees: 67% of deprived Lebanese and 87% of all displaced persons from Syria live in 251 localities. In general, 10% of Lebanese and 52% of displaced Syrians are extremely poor.

The refugee crisis in Lebanon

Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world: 1 out of every 4 people. Since the beginning of the Syria Crisis in 2011, large numbers of refugees passed the borders to Lebanon escaping from the violence in Syria. There are an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon (947,063 registered with UNHCR as of January 2019 and many more present but unregistered[i]), and around 30 thousand Palestinian refugees from Syria. While there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees who were living in Lebanon before the Syria Crisis. There are no formal camps for Syrian refugees in Lebanon: refugees live in over 1,700 communities throughout the country.

The majority of Palestinian refugees live in 12 formal camps and 42 informal gatherings. Since the start of the Syria crisis, Palestinian refugees from Syria have sought refuge in Lebanon, placing a strain on the already over-crowded camps that suffer from chronically decaying infrastructure, contaminated water, and unsafe conditions.

Oxfam in Lebanon 

Oxfam has been working in Lebanon since 1993. We provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people affected by conflict, and we promote economic development, promotion of good governance at a local and national level, and women’s rights through our work with our partners. Oxfam also works with local partners to contribute to the protection and empowerment of marginalized women and men.

Oxfam in Lebanon developed a 5-year strategy to achieve our vision: marginalized women and men in Lebanon (Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian populations, including refugees) are protected and empowered to enjoy their basic rights and access services enabling them to live in dignity within a more equitable society. The Strategy will be implemented through three programmes: Humanitarian Programme, Economic Justice Programme, and Active Citizenship and Good Governance Programme.

We have scaled up the activities in response to the Syria crisis, providing water and sanitation improvements, and emergency cash assistance for refugees and poor Lebanese, helping refugees with legal protection issues, and supporting small businesses and private-sector job creation. Oxfam is currently working in North Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and in Palestinian camps and gatherings, through the three programmes:

  • Humanitarian Programme: aims to empower marginalized women and men, including refugees, to meet their basic needs and uphold their basic rights in the face of current and future shocks. The program supports civil society organizations, local and national structures to provide protection and services, particularly ensuring dignified and sustainable access to WaSH, as one of the mounting needs among refugees and hosting communities.

  • Economic Justice Programme: aims to empower marginalized women and men, especially youth, to cope with the effects of economic poverty, and to have greater access to and control over livelihood assets for sustainable poverty reduction and reduced aid dependency. The program promotes greater resilience and social stability in areas affected by the refugee crisis including informal tented settlements (ITSs) and Palestinian camps.

  • Active Citizenship and Good Governance Programme: aims to influence the Government power- holders to become more accountable and effective. The programme supports civil society, in particular youth, to be able to influence decision-making processes by the engagement with governmental authorities and informal powerholders to promote a more enabling environment for local participation. 

[i] Sources: Government of Lebanon and United Nations, Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) 2017-20; UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response Information Sharing Portal (Accessed 1 August 2018); UNHCR/UNICEF/WFP, Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees (VASYR) 2016; AUB and UNRWA, Survey on the Socioeconomic Status of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: 2015; University of Saint Joseph Political Science Institute, Survey on Perceptions of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Between Resilience and Vulnerability, February 2017; UNRWA, Protection Brief: Palestinian Refugees Living in Lebanon, February 2017. LHIF, Making the Case for Strategic Resettlement from Lebanon, December 2016, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2017–2020.