Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
27 October 2015

Executive Summary

Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) began trickling into Lebanon shortly after the onset of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. Their numbers, however, only dramatically increased in the second half of 2012, as the crisis intensified. Slightly over half of PRS who currently reside in Lebanon entered the country in 2013, with the largest proportion arriving during the first three months of that year. In August 2013, the first set of restrictions on access into Lebanon were introduced and therefore as of May 2014, PRS entry into Lebanon was curtailed. Their numbers have not increased since then.

During the summer of 2014, UNRWA conducted a Vulnerability Assessment of all PRS families recorded in Lebanon. Each family was interviewed in their home using a 45-minute-long multi-sectorial family questionnaire that was based on the World Food Program's (WFP) Vulnerability Assesment of Syrian Refugees (VASyR) questionnaire and adapted for the UNRWA-specific context. The findings presented in this report are based on analysis of data gathered from 12,735 PRS families and 44,227 individuals. The Vulnerability Assessment sought to provide a profile of the PRS population according to the following eight sectors: 1) economic; 2) education; 3) food security; 4) health; 5) non-food items (NFIs); 6) protection; 7) shelter; and 8) water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). In addition, an overall vulnerability score was calculated.


PRS families live in all Lebanese regions, but the largest proportion reside in Saida (32.96%), followed by Beirut (18.09%), Tyre (17.25%), Beqaa (16.1%), and the North (1559%). In Beirut, camp versus non-camp residence is almost equally divided. On the other hand, the majority of PRS families in the North (81.72%) live inside camps whereas the majority of PRS families in the Beqaa (86.93%) live outside camps. PRS families are mobile and three out of four have changed residence at least once since arriving to Lebanon.

PRS family size ranges from 3.06 in Beirut to 3.66 in Tyre, with a mean of 3.48. The average family is composed of two adults, one child under the age of five, and one child between 5 and 15 years of age; one in ten families have a member over 63 years of age. Half of PRS families have three members or less, whereas only 15.67% have six or more members. Half of single-person families (21.65% of PRS families) are women and almost half are in their twenties and thirties; two out of five single-person families are married, indicating that their spouse either remained in Syria or is living elsewhere. The average number of people living in a PRS household is 728. Almost 60% of PRS families live in a household with one or more other families.

The average age of PRS in Lebanon is 24.71. A large proportion of PRS are children below the age of 15, highlighting the presence of a high dependency ratio; one third of PRS families are headed by women.

Legal Status

The findings on legal status highlight an important gap that contributes to PRS vulnerability in the area of protection. Even though less than 3% of PRS entered Lebanon irregularly, more than half did not hold a valid visa during the summer of 2014. This indicates that the majority of PRS entered Lebanon legally but lost their legal status in the country due to overstaying their visa duration. One of the reasons of falling into illegal status is the inability to pay the US$ 200 to renew residency papers for each family member. The proportion of PRS who had the means to pay this amount is less than 10%; this proportion does not vary by region or by camp versus non-camp residence. Of the 24,625 PRS individuals who do not possess a valid visa for Lebanon, three quarters reported experiencing limited mobility.

Work, expenditures, and Debt

PRS in Lebanon face extremely limited work opportunities coupled with high expenditures on food and shelter. This situation has led most families to fall into debt and to become heavily reliant on UNRWA assistance. More than half of PRS families do not have any family members who worked during the month preceding the assessment. The proportion is highest inside camps in the North, where 70.67% of families do not have any working member. Female-headed PRS families face particularly grim livelihood conditions; four out of five female-headed families do not have any working member. In families that have a working member, in 89.37% of the times, the worker holds a temporary job; only 8% of the workers hold a permanent job.

At the same time, PRS families report high total and food expenditures. Overall, PRS families who reside outside camps in Beirut report the highest total expenditures (US$ 609) while those who reside inside camps in Tyre report the lowest (US$ 421). Average food expenditures are US$ 232 per family per month and US$ 85 per individual per month. Irrespective of whether there is a working member in a PRS family or not, food expenditures per individual stand at US$ 85 a month.

Given the extremely limited work opportunities, it is no surprise that only 7.13% of PRS families report income from labor as a primary source of livelihood. Conversely, 80% rely on UNRWA assistance as the primary source of livelihood. Falling in debt is another challenge that PRS families face given the limited work opportunities. Reliance on debt as a primary, secondary, or third source of income exceeds 90% in the Beqaa and North. Other than the 22% who reported not having debt at all, 21.85% of PRS families were indebted for US$ 200 or less, 31.92% were indebted for US$ 201 to US$ 600, and 24.04% were indebted for more than US$ 600.

Food Consumption, Food Security, and Coping Strategies

The low levels of consumption of certain types of protein- and other nutrient-rich food items, and the high proportion of families who reported experiencing lack of food or money needed to buy it, raise serious concerns about food security among PRS in Lebanon. Even though the majority of families reported consuming vegetables, legumes, and nuts a few times during the week preceding the assessment, one in five families did not consume milk or dairy products and almost a half did not consume fruits or meat at all during the same period. Surprisingly, PRS families in the Beqaa agricultural region consumed vegetables and other food items less than in other regions.

The overwhelming majority of PRS families (91%) reported experiencing lack of food or money needed to buy it during the 30-day-period preceding the assessment. This proportion varies by region, with the highest rate reported inside camps in the North. As expected, a higher than average proportion of families who do not have a working member and those who rely on UNRWA assistance as a main source of income reported lack of food or money needed to buy it.

The four most-commonly reported food-related coping strategies include: reducing the number of meals or portion size, borrowing food from friends or relatives, restricting consumption by adults for young children to eat, and spending full days without eating. One out of ten families that experienced lack of food or money needed to buy it reported that at least one member in the family spent days without eating. Of note, this extreme coping strategy with food insecurity was reported more in Beirut (13.06%) than in other regions.

Shelter, Rent, and Assets

The majority of PRS families live in an independent house or apartment and only a small proportion live in a factory/warehouse/garage/shop or tent/hut/barrack. For this group of refugees, however, vulnerability lies in the fact that they pay high amounts on rent in return for crowded and poorly maintained residences. The small proportion of PRS families who live in a tent/hut/barrack are particularly vulnerable. The majority of PRS families in Beirut live in an independent house or apartment; on the other hand, the North has the largest proportion that live in a factory/warehouse/garage/shop (not more than 12%) and Beqaa has the largest proportion that live in a tent/hut/barrack (not more than 10%). With respect to type of tenure, the majority of PRS families rent their place of residence (81.69%), whilst 10.43% are hosted for free.

The mean living space per household in which a PRS family lives (each household includes 2.12 families on average) is 57m2; the mean living space in a tent/hut/ barrack is 25 m2. In 12.35% of PRS families, individuals live in extremely crowded conditions of 35 m2 or less per individual; this is the minimum standard space required for healthy living. In two out of five PRS families in the Beqaa in particular, individuals live in extremely crowded conditions of 35 m2 or less. As expected, crowding is highest in the following three types of residence: collective shelter; tent/hut/barrack; and factory/warehouse/garage/shop.

The mean monthly rent of a household that shelters a PRS family is US$ 257 (US$ 303 for households outside camps). The average monthly rent for a tent/hut/barrack is US$ 157. Despite the relatively high amounts PRS families spend on rent, some experience poor housing conditions such as lack of access to electricity/gas plugs; presence of damaged doors/windows; security risks and physical inaccessibility; and humidity, floods, or leaks. Electricity/gas plugs are generally accessible even though 11.40% of PRS families who live in a tent/ hut/barrack do not have access to them. About three out of five PRS families have humidity, floods, or leaks in their residence, and this problem is exacerbated for those who live in either an unfinished shelter or in a tent/hut/barrack.

With respect to household assets, PRS families fare good on some (e.g. stoves) but not as good on others (e.g. refrigerators). 8The majority of PRS families (84.11%) own a stove, but only 71.93% of those who live in a tent/hut/barrack do. Refrigerators are less accessible; about a third of families who reside in a tent/hut/barrack own one.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Over 90% of PRS families have access to a bathroom in their residence. The majority have a flush latrine or an improved latrine with cement slab and 20.80% have a traditional pit latrine; only 131% reported defecating in the open air. One out of ten PRS families reported that they share a bathroom with 15 people or more.The majority of PRS families (81%) reported having access to sufficient water for washing and toilet purposes. Families in the North and Beqaa fared worse than the other regions with respect to access to water for household use. A third of PRS families reported not having access to sufficient water for basic livelihood, e.g. drinking and cooking. As the majority of families in Lebanon rely on bottled water for drinking and cooking, the low access reported may indicate lack of money needed to purchase it. Access to sufficient water for drinking and cooking is also lowest in the North and Beqaa, particularly inside camps.


Indicators for the school enrollment of PRS children highlight an alarming vulnerability and require immediate attention. A very low proportion of 6-18 year old PRS children are currently enrol led in school (57.64%); 34.12% were previously enrolled and 8.25% have never been enrolled. Girls are not more disadvantaged than boys. Slightly more than 40% of six-year-old children and 13% of seven-year-old children have never been enrolled in school. This means that PRS families face barriers to enrolling their children in first grade and underscores the need to proactively facilitate school enrollment in elementary school.

Furthermore, the proportion of children in the previously enrolled category increases with increasing age, particularly after age 12; it is safe to assume that the majority of these non-enrolled children are school dropouts. By age 16, current school enrollment stands at a low of 2959% whereas previous enrollment stands at 67.94%. School dropout among PRS children begins as early as 12 years old and is a serious challenge. School enrollment is lowest in Beirut (48.89%). The majority of 6-18 year old children who are enrolled (87.45%) attend UNRWA schools.

More than half of children who are not enrolled in school cited war and emigration as the main reason for non-enrollment. Otherwise, 17.45% cited school failure and lowschool attachment; 13.65% cited poverty-related reasons, which include poverty of family, leaving school to work (mostly boys), leaving school to get married (mostly girls), and having to care for a family member; and 6.38% cited school accessibility related reasons, which include high cost and unavailability of school or transportation. Saida has the largest proportion of PRS children not enrolled in school due to poverty, the North has the largest proportion of the non-enrolled because of work or marriage, and the Beqaa has the largest proportion of the nom-enrolled due to lack of access to school.


Among PRS families, 6.56% have a pregnant or breastfeeding woman. A considerable proportion of pregnant/breastfeeding women (12.19%) are younger than 20 years old, but the majority are between 20 and 34 years of age. Almost a third have secondary education or more, and only 3.11% have no education at all. Two out of five pregnant/breastfeeding women live in a household that does not have access to sufficient water for drinking or cooking, a quarter live in a household that does not have access to sufficient water for washing and bathroom use, 7% live in a residence that does not have a bathroom, and one in ten share a toilet with 15 persons or more.

Almost half of PRS families have at least one member suffering from a chronic condition, one in ten families have at least one member with a physical or psychological disability, and 2.80% have at least one working age member (16-64 years old) in need of support in daily activities. The four most prevalent chronic conditions are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and bone and muscle problems. As expected, the prevalence of chronic conditions increases with increasing age; 54.57% of men and 6127% of women in the 50-59 age category have a chronic condition. Women report more high blood pressure compared to men at all four age groups; conversely, men have more heart disease than women.

Profile of Vulnerable PRS Families

A large proportion of PRS families experience severe vulnerability in the health and protection sectors (18.8% and 243%, respectively). About one out of ten families are severely vulnerable with respect to the WASH sector.

Complete document in PDF format (Requires Acrobat Reader)

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter