GENEVA, 6th January, 2017 (WAM) – Syrian refugees in Lebanon remain highly vulnerable even after living in the country for many years, according to a benchmark study carried out by the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partner agencies of the UN.

Household surveys conducted by the UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP, revealed that the economic plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon was, at best, as serious as last year. In certain aspects, their plight continued to deteriorate.

The annual study found that families had exhausted their limited resources, and were adapting to survive on the bare minimum, deploying harmful or asset-depleting coping mechanisms to survive. It showed that over one third of refugees were facing moderate to severe food insecurity, an increase of 12 percentage points compared to 2015. The share of households living below the poverty line remained at an alarming 71 percent.

“Syrian refugees in Lebanon are barely coping,” said Amin Awad, Director of the UNHCR’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau. “They remain extremely vulnerable and dependent on aid from the international community. Without continued support, their situation would be appalling.”

The survey, known as the Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees (VASyR), was the fourth of its kind. The findings are used in a variety of ways, including to help determine recipients of funding and other forms of support.

It found that more than half of refugee households had a total per capita expenditure below the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB), a measure of items deemed essential for a household’s survival. While this figure stabilised at a national level, the share of households in the SMEB category increased by more than 50 percent in certain districts. Serious challenges were identified in the areas of residency, education and housing.

Still, the injection of much-needed assistance was able to halt the sharp decline into poverty that was observed between 2014 and 2015. As of November 2016, US$1 billion had been received, just 50 percent of what the joint UN, government and inter-agency appeal for the country had asked for.

Compared to the previous year, the situation of refugees had not deteriorated dramatically in terms of health, education, shelter, water, hygiene, solid waste and energy, thanks to the financial support of the international community and the careful programming of humanitarian operations.

Lebanon is the second largest host of Syrian refugees after Turkey, with over a million registered in the small country. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are scattered in urban and rural environments, including approximately 2,125 communities and locations.

WAM/tfaham