The United Nations High Commission for Refugees recently reported that around 74 percent of Syrian families who have fled into Lebanon face food insecurity. With the refugee population in Lebanon expected to increase about 36 percent by next January, aid organizations are moving quickly to secure enough food for each Syrian family.
Conflict in Syria is the problem’s driving force. Heavy bombardments in Syria force refugees into Lebanon out of fear for their safety.
The influx of refugees strains Lebanese host communities, many of which lacked educational and economic resources even prior to the sudden population increase. Since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Lebanon’s CPI has increased from values in the sixties to the current level of 100.61 Index Points—a reflection of the strain placed on Lebanese consumers. The influx creates challenges for farmers in Lebanon as well, as demonstrated by 2012‘s shortfall of 55,000 mt of cereal.
Despite all of this, the Lebanese government has not broken its commitment to 1951’s Geneva Convention: its borders have remained open. In Lebanon, Syrians can access education and health services, and 70 percent of those families who register with the UNHCR can obtain food vouchers regularly.
But assistance has on the whole been inadequate to ensure Syrians meet their physical needs. Syrians have struggled to make up the difference themselves. Nearly 20 percent of refugees lack jobs, and the average daily income of families has hovered around U.S. $15 per day. It has been estimated that families need $300 a week to meet their needs, so average incomes are far from sufficient at this point.
Food vouchers provide some relief, but rising food prices have reduced their efficacy.
However, even though the food security situation in Lebanon needs improvement, one must recognize the even worse situation in Syria. Speaking of her life in Syria, one woman from Yabroud said, “We couldn’t afford to buy anything, my children were living on bread.” She added, “They used to cry a lot from hunger.”
With such a powerful driving force as hunger, refugees will surely continue to pour into Lebanon from Syria. Since Syrians will rely primarily on organizations other than the Lebanese government for aid relief, now is perhaps an especially effective time to donate to aid organizations working in Lebanon. Organizations to consider are Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, CARE, the UNHCR and UNICEF—along with many others.