170,000 Lebanese Pushed To Poverty Due To Syrian Crisis
As Syrian refugees are now seeking refuge in more than 1,600 communities across Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are being pushed into poverty by the Syria crisis.
In testimony by Assistant Secretary Anne C. Richard of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, one of Lebanon’s communities where Syrian refugees sought refuge is the town of Arsal in northeast part of the country.
Arsal’s 35,000 residents already welcomed 19,000 refugees.
Recently to address the needs of the influx of refugees, the United Nations set up tents for some of the newest arrivals, thus creating Lebanon’s first “formal tented settlement” for Syrian refugees.
Syrian Crisis Pushing Lebanon To Brink Of Poverty
According to a World Bank/UN assessment, 170,000 Lebanese are being pushed into poverty by the Syria crisis.
Ms. Richard highlighted that Lebanon will likely suffer cumulative economic losses of $7.5 billion by the end of 2014 and a doubling of the unemployment rate to 20 percent.
In addition, Lebanese government expenditures have increased $1.1 billion due to the increased demand for public services, according to the World Bank/UN assessment.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s government estimates it has spent more than $2 billion on the refugee response. And Jordan has experienced an up to 27 percent increase in the cost of food in 2012.
Lebanon As A Host Country For Syrian Refugees
According to Ms. Richard, Lebanon continues to keep its borders mostly open and is now hosting the largest numbers of refugees in the smallest country in the region.
Refugees from Syria now make up 20 percent of the population in Lebanon, on top of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees that Lebanon has hosted for decades.
In addition, Lebanon has opened its hospitals, clinics, and schools to refugees and is struggling to cope with the strain on its public services.
Ms. Richard highlighted that the U.S. government continues to support Lebanon through emergency response and longer-term development assistance.
She added that USAID is working to improve the lives of Lebanese citizens and their communities by enhancing economic opportunity, increasing access to education, improving water and wastewater services, strengthening civil society and municipalities and protecting the environment.
She stated that at the meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon held at the UN in September, Secretary Kerry announced plans to provide an additional $30 million in direct assistance for growing needs in Lebanon’s host communities.
US Responds To Needs Of Refugees And Host Communities
According to Ms. Richard, the State Department and USAID are major funders of the top humanitarian organizations responding to the crisis in Syria and the region, providing over $1.3 billion in assistance to date.
The US government has the multi-faceted response that has been mounted by UN agencies and NGOs working with U.S. support, including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Food Program (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
With the help of these agencies, food, clean water, shelter, medical care and other basic essentials are provided to the Syrian refugees.
The US also supports the neighboring countries as they respond to the Syria crisis. Since 2012, the United States provided $300 million in bilateral budget support to the Government of Jordan, on top of the annual budget support, specifically to offset spending Jordan has devoted to hosting refugees from Syria.
In addition, the US provided over $30 million to help alleviate strains on the water and education systems. USAID built five new schools in northern Jordan and is expanding 67 existing schools.
On December 16, the UN issued new funding appeals for 2014 totaling $6.5 billion for 2014. The appeals will respond to the immediate humanitarian needs of those inside Syria and refugees in the region.
The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 100,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced around 6.5 million, and 2 million of those are now outside Syria. The current estimate of deaths at the time of writing, range from 95,000 to 130,000.