On August 4, Lebanon commemorated the victims of the Beirut port blast. This avoidable event, along with COVID-19 lockdowns, exacerbated the complexity of the economic and political crisis, triggered by the financial collapse in October 2019. Lebanon continues to host 1.5 million Syrian refugees - the highest population-refugee ratio in the world - without sustainable solutions in sight. Resource scarcity and public service collapse leads to a crisis with humanitarian consequences and contributes to community tensions.
Nine out of ten Syrian refugees and one out of three Lebanese are abject poor: 1.6 million people are food insecure, with 77% of refugees having to reduce their spending on food. Intra - and inter communal tension, often over scarcity of resources, is on the rise and threatens the protection space for refugees.
Syrian households systematically borrow money or adopt highly negative ways of coping to make ends meet. Humanitarian assistance manages to cover only less than half of the basic survival needs of families. Child labour doubled in 2020 and 24% of Syrian refugee girls aged 15-19 are married. Across the country, many Syrian refugees live in mostly small informal tented settlements or shelters that are substandard, exposing people to harsh weather conditions and triggering protection risks.
The closure of schools left 1.2 million children missing out on school education in 2020. 40% of school-aged Syrian refugees remain out of any learning programme.
Frequent and extended power cuts threatens the delivery of water across the country. Hospitals have downsized their capacity and are mostly admitting critical cases. Huge shortage of medicine and medical supplies reduces access to care. Many doctors and nurses left Lebanon. COVID-19 vaccination rates are very low. The health sector is not ready to cope with a new COVID wave.
Since 2011, the European Union made available to Lebanon €722 million in humanitarian funding to respond to urgent needs. The funding mainly focus on vulnerable Syrian refugees, but it has also helped vulnerable Lebanese and host communities impacted by the socio-economic crisis, the pandemic and the Beirut blast.
After the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020, the EU mobilised €32.2 million to provide immediate humanitarian assistance. The funds were used for the rehabilitation of homes, multi-purpose cash for households to address direct needs and protection services such as legal aid and help with documentation. By the end of the interventions, nearly 152,000 beneficiaries received assistance through EU-supported partners.
In March 2021, the EU announced €50 million for Lebanon during the Brussels V Conference as part of the Syria Crisis response. This is part of the regional funding to support the needs of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees across the region.
Furtherly, during the summer of 2021, €5.5 million have been released to strengthen the COVID-19 response in the country. The funds will help improve outbreak detection at community level, strengthen testing capacity, reinforce the health system and facilitate the vaccination rollout.
The EU provides humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees through multi-purpose cash assistance for the most vulnerable and education services. Emergency response, health and protection services continue to be provided as well to refugees and host communities. Cash assistance reduces the vulnerability in the face of socio-economic hardship and mitigates protection concerns such as evictions and exploitation. In 2021, the EU is contributing EUR 30 million to support around 660,000 Syrian refugees with multi-purpose cash assistance to meet their food and basic needs.
The EU also supports protection services such as child protection, supports survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, provides legal aid and supports the UNHCR Refugee registration and verification. In the health sector, the EU is supporting primary health care, improving the quality of COVID-19 hospitalisation, boosting medicine procurement and supporting vaccinations.
The EU’s commitment to Education in Emergencies helps Syrian out-of-school children to gain access to non-formal education facilitating access into formal education.