On June 19, World Refugee Day, Handicap International calls to attention the serious threats facing Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the lack of funding available to respond to the crisis. Lebanon, a country with 5 million inhabitants, has absorbed one million Syrians in the last three years and is straining to cope with the massive influx of refugees. Despite the best efforts of humanitarian organizations, including Handicap International, the refugees’ living conditions remain appalling.
This refugee crisis has destabilized the country, as most refugees live in host communities rather than formal camps and it is these communities who have to bear the demographic pressure. The consequences of this sudden population boom have been disastrous. The health, waste management, and education infrastructures are struggling to cope.
The health system is particularly hard hit. According to a study conducted by Handicap International, 20% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have a physical, mental, or sensory impairment and more than 30% of refugees have some form of vulnerability such as an injury, disability, or chronic disease.
The refugee crisis is also bringing financial hardship on vulnerable Lebanese families. According to the International Labor Organization, around 170,000 Lebanese people have fallen below the poverty line, joining the one million people already living in precarious circumstances.
Handicap International, like all humanitarian actors working in the country, must meet the needs of a very large number of refugees. Organizations need to identify the urgent needs of the new arrivals and attend to the long-term needs of the Syrians who have been in Lebanon for years. At the same time, the humanitarian response must include the host communities.
Despite the massive needs, all the humanitarian organizations responding to the crisis, including Handicap International, are facing reductions in the budgets committed by funding bodies. This forces humanitarian organizations to constrain their actions.
In spite of this, Handicap International has expanded its teams to meet the needs of the most vulnerable refugees. There are currently more than 450 employees working on this emergency across the region. Over the last few months, Handicap International has reinforced its system for managing new refugees.