The estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, 28,800 Palestinian refugees from Syria and 175,000 Palestinian refugees amount to over a quarter of Lebanon’s total population. This has put a huge strain on infrastructure and public services, in particular now that the country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis combined with the impact of Covid-19.
The Lebanese government opposes formal camps, so refugees must find, and pay for, their own accommodation, including in informal tented settlements (ITS). This has resulted in refugees resorting to precarious shelter conditions including inadequate WASH facilities. Government policies restrict ‘durable’ interventions, which could allow ITS to meet the basic standards required for safety and dignity.
ITS are often located in remote areas without access to healthcare, schools and livelihood opportunities due to the cost of transportation and movement restrictions resulting from a widespread lack of legal residency and the risk of arrest or detention while crossing checkpoints. Since 2015, UNHCR suspended registering Syrian refugees in Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government. It is hard for refugees already in the country to renew their legal stay.
People we helped in Lebanon in 2019
All of NRC’s field activities during Covid-19 are implemented in accordance with social distancing guidelines and are conducted by frontline staff equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE).
NRC Lebanon’s Covid-19 response includes crosscutting activities and sector-specific Covid-19 work in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter, ICLA and education. NRC has also been implementing activities together with other NGOs.
We run programmes for refugees from Syria at our community centres, NRC alternative learning spaces, support programming in Lebanese public schools and in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Our education activities:
- support access to schooling and keeping children in school
- create non-formal education opportunities to reach out-of-school children, such as catch-up classes
- train teachers in informal educational methods
- rehabilitate Lebanese public schools
- provide vocational training and language classes for out-of-school youth and young adults
- support UNRWA's schools for Palestinian refugees by training teachers on child-centred approaches to teaching
Emergency education during Covid-19
To meet the needs of the 1,200 children enrolled at NRC learning centres whose non-formal education programme has now been disrupted, the education programme is operating through remote learning modalities, including via WhatsApp. We provide a short-term education response including curated learning, psychosocial support and health awareness activities, combined with follow-up phone calls to provide guidance and to safely refer people to other specialised organisations as needed. We are also supporting the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) with a selection of Better Learning Programme activities as well as providing youth with activity-based short learning courses, blended IT skills trainings and life skills in support of youth wellbeing.
Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)
Our ICLA teams:
- support access to civil documentation, like permit renewals and birth registration
- prevent housing disputes and forced evictions
- monitor individual cases, from assistance to referrals and follow-up systems
- visit families to ensure they receive the information they need and to identify special concerns
- raise awareness among refugees of their rights in Lebanon
- provide legal assistance and representation for Palestinian refugees, particularly in cases concerning property inheritance
ICLA response during Covid-19
The ICLA programme is implementing all activities through remote modalities to minimise the risk of exposing the people we serve and our staff. We are reaching out to often isolated refugee communities to provide them with essential information about our current ICLA services and to raise awareness of the coronavirus and precautionary measures. By maintaining this regular contact, ICLA teams can continue to see the full range of needs people might have during these difficult times. We are also mapping municipal restrictions and public office practices during Covid-19 in addition to document requirements at healthcare facilities.
Shelter and settlements
Our shelter efforts provide affordable, quality housing – and we are the main providers of such housing in Lebanon. Our shelter projects include:
- providing a minimum of 12 months of rent-free housing for Syrian refugees though the Occupancy Free of Charge programme
- integrated programming with WASH and ICLA teams
- ensuring that renovated properties have adequate water, sewage and sanitation facilities
- rehabilitating Lebanese public schools
- providing materials for emergency weather proofing, or cash vouchers to purchase proofing materials
- building repairs in Palestinian refugee camps
Shelter response during Covid-19
Our shelter teams have provided support as part of the Covid-19 specific rapid response in ITS, urban areas and Palestinian camps. We have been relocating households to available units under the OFC programme and provided emergency cash for rent to vulnerable refugees referred to NRC. We conducted minor repairs to separate high-risk people from the rest of the household to minimise their exposure to the coronavirus. We also distributed personal and domestic hygiene items as well as shelter kits and plastic sheeting for referred protection cases.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) promotion
We work to expand water and sanitation services and improve hygiene practices among Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and local Lebanese communities. Our WASH teams:
- ensure that shelter projects have adequate water, sewage and sanitation facilities
- construct water network extensions, including boreholes, to increase clean water supply to refugee and local communities
- lead community support projects to lend crucial infrastructure support to vulnerable Lebanese communities
- set up new sanitation systems that use small-scale septic tanks to manage sewage
- create WASH committees in informal tented settlements, to help refugees take care of WASH infrastructure maintenance and services
WASH response during Covid-19
The WASH programme has increased its water trucking to informal tented settlements and urban areas by quadrupling the supply of water to 60 litres per person. Our teams are continuously monitoring water supply and quality and have proportionally increased the desludging activities. We are also supporting municipalities with solid waste management and provide training to community focal points on Covid-19. In addition, we have scaled up our distributions of hygiene items, disinfections kits and other non-food items linked to water supply.
Emergency Response Unit
In December 2017, NRC Lebanon initiated the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in the Bekaa Valley. The ERU responds to any emergency cases or situations in our areas of intervention. ERU activities include:
- assisting all refugees in need, both in informal tented settlements and/or sub-standard shelters
- emergency support varying from provision of basic assistance (mattresses and blankets, kitchen sets, hygiene kits, etc.) to shelter kit distribution, site improvements and implementation of WASH activities
- responding to the needs of newly arrived refugees from Syria
- working closely with the refugee community to identify any incidents or vulnerable people in need of support
- assessing and referring emergency cases to responsible partners outside NRC’s area of intervention
The ERU contributes to our Covid-19 response in informal tented settlements (ITS) and Palestinian camps and supports the regional rapid response teams, which have been put in place to respond efficiently to area-specific Covid-19 outbreaks in refugee communities. Activities include the distribution of disinfection, hibernation and Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) kits, WASH support to isolation units and distribution of UNHCR-funded hygiene items in collective shelters.
- Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA)
- Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)
- Germany through the German Development Bank KfW
- German Federal Foreign Office (FFO)
- Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)
- United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID)
- State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)
- Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon
- European Union Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian Crisis, the “MADAD fund”
- Lebanon Humanitarian Fund
About NRC in Lebanon
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