For nearly 60 years, UNHCR has worked tirelessly in Lebanon to meet the needs of refugees from around the region and persons internally displaced in Lebanon
With the continuous and close cooperation with our partners, Lebanon, Lebanese and donors, we have faced and overcome many challenges together in assisting the country in caring for refugees.
Our humanitarian work in Lebanon started in 1962. We stayed and delivered during the Lebanese civil war, in 2006, during the Syrian conflict and the largest influx of refugees to Lebanon, and today with the COVID-19 pandemic.
We, alongside 60 agencies, continue to provide healthcare, education, shelter and many other essential relief services to refugees and supporting the Lebanese communities hosting them.
As the bombings began in July 2006, hundreds of thousands were forced to flee the war-ravaged villages of south Lebanon to escape the violence. Thousands more in Beirut were driven to the surrounding areas, many living in schools.
In the face of these severe challenges, UNHCR worked day and night to coordinate with Lebanese officials and distribute emergency relief supplies among the population who was internally displaced.
These included basic essentials like food and water but, in many cases, it meant delivering hundreds of tents and mattresses to provide shelter for the internally displaced. UNHCR was present to monitor border crossings of Lebanese who left for Syria and provided relief material to thousands of Lebanese who sought refuge inside Syria .
One month into the start of the Syrian crisis, over 4,000
found refuge in various areas of northern Lebanon.
UNHCR and local authorities start distributing relief items to the first arrivals.
Realizing the need to address the influx of refugees in north Lebanon early on, UNHCR and partners started working on quick impact projects.
The first edition of VASyR (Vulnerability Assessment
for Syrian Refugees) was launched with the aim of
identifying changes and trends in the lives of Syrian
refugee families. With an overview of geographical
variations in vulnerabilities, the program covers all
sectors and allows for the identification of issues to
UNHCR took on a much larger role in assisting displaced Syrian families by providing them with food and hygiene kits, assisting in locating living accommodations, all while coordinating with Lebanese authorities. In April 2012, the number of Syrian refugees stood at 18,000 but with the war in Syria raging on, it would soon rise along with the pressing need for UNHCR and the international community's support for refugees and local communities alike.
UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres and special envoy Angelina Jolie met with and heard the difficulties people face in escaping war-torn Syria and the challenges they face finding shelter for them in Lebanon.
Guterres and Jolie visited the Bekaa Valley and met some of the 67,000 registered refugees in Lebanon before meeting President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
“I was moved to meet Syrian families … in homes where they are welcomed and protected,”
Jolie told journalists.
The pressure on already strained Lebanese public infrastructure like sanitation, hospitals and water supplies begins to build as the number of refugees reaches 356,000. The government, UN and UNHCR recognize the critical issues ahead, including the large presence of children who make up half of the total number of the displaced people. Finding the resources to accommodate the refugee population as well as the vulnerable members of Lebanese society also affected by the decline in trade from the Syrian war will be their main challenges going forward.
During times of war, every day spent out of school represents a setback for refugee children. Besides obvious schooling advantages like education itself, and building a future, it's also crucial children are around each other for social bonding.
These issues were affecting 270,000 refugee children when 74 Lebanese schools offered a solution by running a second shift to allow for more students.
Over 15,000 refugees under the age of 18 were allowed to enroll in learning activities to try and reclaim the lost years and get their education back on track.
UNHCR's role in aiding refugees and local communities calls for a larger presence on the ground. Our staff grows from 40 before 2011 to over 600 (80% Lebanese) in 2014 to deal with the growing needs of the host community and refugees.
In coordination with the UN and the Lebanese government, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan is launched. The LCRP has for objectives to address:
- Strain on Lebanese infrastructure and resources
- Economic losses suffered by a lack of tourism and the declining security situation in Lebanon
- The education crisis threatening vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian students
- An impending health crisis and the spread of infectious diseases
Lebanon, a country of over 4 million people, now hosts over 1 million Syrian refugees amid a crisis which shows no signs of slowing.
UNHCR continues to work in tandem with local authorities to alleviate the stress on public infrastructure and resources.
In the early hours of September 2nd, 2015, Turkish authorities discovered the body of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi washed ashore after his family attempted to reach Europe in a rubber inflatable boat. A photograph of his lifeless body made headlines throughout the world, awakening the international community to the realities that those working within the context of the conflict were all too aware of.
The photograph's viral spread prompted international concern and a rise in awareness about the exodus crisis and the perils so many refugees face in trying to escape violence at home.
In 2015 alone, over one million people arrived in Europe by traveling aboard poorly equipped vessels, many of which were operated by smugglers.
Thanks to the commitment of local authorities in Mount Lebanon, 12 water reservoirs were constructed in the area, providing clean water to tens of thousands of Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees.
Mireille Girard, UNHCR's Representative for Lebanon, hailed the completion of the project.
“In less than two years, together with our partners and the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment, as well as municipal authorities, we managed to build reservoirs that will expand water access in twelve of the most affected communities in Mount Lebanon and improve the lives of tens of thousands of Lebanese and Syrians. It is a remarkable achievement."
Local tech enthusiasts were challenged to develop workable prototypes that could be seamlessly incorporated into humanitarian programmes as part of a hackathon co-sponsored by UNHCR and hosted by Open Source Action Network.
Kwik Response won the competition by developing a sensor for shelters to warn about fires, floods, leaks, structural stability and changes in temperature.
The influx of one million Syrian refugees in a country with a population of four million has led to an increase of demand for public primary healthcare services.
Thanks to generous donations, Lebanon has been able to integrate a range of much-needed services that benefit both refugee and Lebanese communities.
The common card system is launched with the intent of simplifying how aid is delivered and
to allow access to humanitarian cash assistance to the most vulnerable refugee
The World Food Programme, UNICEF, UNHCR and Lebanon Cash Consortium all cooperated to put the new system in place.
“The common card system will facilitate access to assistance for Syrian refugees, and enhance the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of aid delivery” said Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon. “UN agencies and the Lebanon Cash Consortium have come together in a much-needed effort to make the delivery of aid as straightforward as can be for vulnerable refugees in Lebanon.”
Thanks to a joint effort from UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO, the Ministry of Education, the World Bank and international donors, over 400,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese children were able to enroll in public schools in 2017.
The "Abtal Al-Madrasa/School Heroes" back to school campaign raised enough money and awareness to guarantee 260,000 Lebanese and 195,000 non-Lebanese children, including Syrian refugee children, between the ages of 3 and 18 access to public schools.
Thanks to the support and commitment of the Ministry of Interior
and Municipalities, Simplified access to birth and marriage
- Legal residency of parents are no longer required to register a newborn
- Only one spouse with valid legal residency can register marriages.
Lebanese director Nadine Labaki said she instantly recognized that 13-year-old Syrian refugee
Zain Al Rafeaa was meant to star in her film “Capernaum” when they met.
Zain, who left southern Syria with his family at the age of seven in 2012, plays a true to life character as a refugee living in Beirut who has to work to support his family rather than go to school.
Zain’s leading role would take him down an incredible path to the Cannes red carpet and eventually to Norway where his family were granted asylum. The unlikely journey culminated in Zain realizing his dream of going to school to learn how to read and write.
How do you think people in Beirut reacted when they saw a child shivering from the cold… watch and see!
As the war in Syria rages on, the total number of refugees reaches 6.7 million with a further 6.2 million displaced internally.
UNHCR Supports Waste Management in
The Municipality of Majdal Anjar, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Environment, UNHCR, UNDP and Anera inaugurated a non-organic waste sorting facility in Majdal Anjar as part of the Community-Based Solid Waste Management Project in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
In light of the environmental and health conditions faced in Majdal Anjar due to the solid waste crisis in the region, and the increased strain on the local infrastructure with the presence of some 18,000 Syrian refugees in the town, solid waste management was selected as a priority area of intervention.
UNHCR and the Ministry of Education renovated and expanded 15 public schools across
Lebanon to provide Lebanese and refugee children with access to higher quality education.
“The issue of education for the world’s refugee children is an urgent one. In Lebanon, still almost half of refugee children, do not go to school. With the help and commitment of Lebanon and the Ministry of Education, we can reduce these numbers, and give refugee children the possibility to dream of a better future so they can rebuild their homes upon their return”, said UNHCR representative Mireille Girard.
In recognition of Lebanon’s generosity, UNHCR has allocated over the past years a proportion of its humanitarian budget to supporting Lebanese institutions and projects that benefit local communities as well as refugees. Since 2011, UNHCR has invested USD 264.9 million in Lebanon’s institutions and infrastructure to support a number of ministries in delivering public services to a larger population and to subsidize projects that bring needed infrastructure and equipment to Lebanese communities in order to mitigate the impact of the refugee influx.
A high-level meeting in Geneva of governments, international financial organizations, business leaders, humanitarian and development actors, refugees, and civil society representatives has secured wide-ranging and substantial commitments of support for refugees and the communities they live in, notably with important pledges of new long- term support. read more
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, UNHCR immediately initiated preparedness, prevention and response measures to safeguard the health of refugee and Lebanese communities as part of the National Response Plan
Our response plan is threefold: Prevention, Containment of transmission andTreatment.
UNHCR’s COVID-19 response is about saving lives and leaving no one behind.
We have a common cause to work toward together and now is the time to recognize that it is in our collective interest to join forces.
UNHCR representative in Lebanon explains how our isolation plan can keep refugees living in crowded settings safe.
With COVID-19, some people need to self-isolate but cannot do so at home. With our partners, we are working to ensure that these people, regardless of nationality, have a place to go to.
UNHCR is supporting hospitals in Lebanon by importing life-saving medical equipment and supplies worth millions of dollars.
We are in the process of expanding five public hospitals with additional beds and ICU space so more COVID-19 patients can receive treatment, regardless of nationality.
In total, we will cover the costs of an additional 800 hospital beds and 100 additional ICU beds over three phases. These supplies will all remain for use once the crisis has passed.