IOM Plans Aid to Syrian Refugees in Southern Lebanon

Lebanon - IOM has completed a rapid assessment of five sites in Southern Lebanon that host over 2,000 Syrian refugees. The findings indicate that refugee communities in the Saida and Sarafand area are in urgent need of aid, including shelter, non-food relief items, access to primary health care, hygiene awareness and income generation projects. They also need transport to refugee registration centres.

Lebanon, with a population of 4.2 million, now hosts over 520,000 Syrian refugees, over 400,000 of whom have arrived this year, creating a massive housing shortage. No official refugee camps have been established and families are mainly living in informal settlements and rented accommodation. 

IOM assessed three different types of site in the area – a collective centre, rented accommodation and informal settlements.  The rent at the sites averages USD 100-200 per month for a single room, usually in a converted storage unit or basement. Refugees complain that rental costs are unreasonably high and facilities are inadequate. 

Securing shelter for new arrivals and relocating refugees from unsafe and unhygienic environments is a top priority.  IOM is working with local municipalities to identify abandoned or derelict public buildings which can be renovated to accommodate families currently living in makeshift camps or unable to pay the high rents demanded by landlords in the area. 

The assessment team noted that water and sanitation was inadequate in all the sites visited, with between 70 and 400 refugees sharing a single latrine. Limited access to water and poor personal hygiene has resulted in various health problems, including a growing number of scabies cases at two sites in Saida.

IOM plans to combine awareness raising on personal hygiene and the hygienic preparation and storage of food, with a distribution of non-food relief items to 2,500 refugees over the next two weeks. It has also flagged outstanding health and hygiene problems to partner agencies in the respective humanitarian clusters.

Refugees do not have access to free health care in Lebanon and gaps in primary health care, particularly maternal, child health care and emergency secondary health care need to be addressed. During the assessment, IOM staff also identified urgent cases in need of treatment, including victims with severe burns and shrapnel injuries.

IOM health teams are collecting medical histories of urgent cases in the five sites to facilitate specialized care. IOM is also working to establish partnerships with hospitals and clinics that can provide treatment for urgent cases at reduced rates. 

Very little help is available to treat refugees suffering from chronic conditions or diseases. One refugee from Homs approached IOM and reported that his child had been diagnosed with cancer in Syria and had been receiving treatment. After the town was attacked and the hospital destroyed, the family had to flee. Since arriving in Lebanon, the boy has not received any treatment and his family fears that the cancer will spread.

IOM also plans to deploy mobile, multi-disciplinary teams of experts to the area to provide counselling and assistance to refugee communities traumatized by the conflict in Syria.

In addition to other challenges, many refugees reported that they were unable to register as refugees because they could not afford to pay the USD 50-70 taxi fare to reach registration centres. At the request of UNHCR, IOM will soon start to provide transport to the UNHCR registration center in Tyre for up to 20,000 refugees.

While the crisis in Syria has primarily affected vulnerable migrants including refugees, returnees from Syria and stranded migrants, it has also severely impacted the local economy.

Lebanese households have been hit by rises in the price of basic commodities and rents, putting growing pressure on their capacity to host new arrivals.

IOM is also working closely with local government partners who have highlighted the reintegration and livelihood needs of Lebanese returnees from Syria. In partnership with Lebanon’s Higher Relief Commission, IOM will profile the needs of some 29,000 Lebanese returnees, although the actual figure could be far higher.

IOM, in coordination with the UN, is appealing for USD 95 million to continue to provide life-saving emergency aid inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, including Lebanon, through December 2013. 

In Lebanon, IOM is appealing for USD 14.2 million. This will go towards non-food relief items for up to 65,000 refugees; livelihood support projects; registration of Lebanese returnees and third country nationals in need of repatriation; support for the Lebanese national tuberculosis screening and treatment programme; and protection for displaced children separated from their families.

To download the IOM Shelter and Site Assessment Report (South Lebanon) please go to:

For more information please contact

Rana Jaber
IOM Beirut
Tel: +961 76682908