Improving living conditions for vulnerable Syrian households in substandard buildings in Arsal, Lebanon

Published 10. May 2017
This evaluation examines the Norwegian Refugee Council’s programme to improve living conditions for vulnerable Syrian refugees in sub-standard buildings in Arsal, a Lebanese border town which stands out for its humanitarian needs and security challenges.

The evaluation’s purpose is to support programme learning around upgrading sub-standard buildings in Arsal that will provide guidance for future programme direction.

The evaluation finds that the NRC intervention contributed to improving the shelter and WASH conditions for Syrian refugees living in sub-standard buildings in Arsal. Other main findings include:

  • NRC’s intervention is appropriate for refugees’ basic short-term needs, but the weatherproofing aspect is more appropriate for an emergency rather than a protracted crisis.
  • The programme meets the “do no harm” test as no negative outcomes were reported for refugees or the host community. The intervention had a positive (although somewhat limited) effect on refugees’ living conditions and no discernible impact on the host community.
  • NRC deserves credit for being one of the few humanitarian actors offering assistance in the hard-to-reach context of Syrian refugees living in sub-standard buildings in Arsal. Beneficiary targeting and selection procedures within this context were somewhat ad-hoc, but a retrospective analysis of beneficiary data confirms that the majority of those reached were severely vulnerable.

Main recommendations to NRC Lebanon:

  1. Consider reintroducing the core NRC Occupancy Free of Charge modality in Arsal. This should be done at first on a manageable scale, with stringent monitoring by both the shelter and M&E teams (including a ‘Plan B’ for remote management if the security and access situation deteriorates).
  2. If reintroducing OFC is not considered viable for the Arsal context, consider upgrading the project by increasing the investment per household to use more sustainable weatherproofing materials than plastic sheeting and timber. For example, if average investment per household in the SSB programme was doubled, it would still be less than half the per-household cost of OFC. This change would have to be carefully messaged to the Arsal community as an upgraded version of SSB rather than as a downgraded OFC project.
  3. Beneficiary selection: Harmonise vulnerability assessment procedures and targeting strategies as much as possible between Arsal and the rest of Lebanon. If separate procedures need to be devised to suit the local context, ensure that these are clearly documented.
  4. Coordination: Establish a formal system for referring Arsal shelter beneficiaries to other NRC services such as education and legal assistance, including tracking which beneficiaries are benefiting from multiple programmes.
  5. Strategic communications: Ensure that Arsal beneficiaries are given clear messages about application processes and stakeholders are briefed on achievements and ongoing efforts (via staff training, printed materials such as brochures, and establishing a reception area at the Arsal office).
  6. M&E: Expand the rollout of independent spot checks by the NRC M&E unit, prioritising areas such as Arsal which have particular due diligence concerns.