Lebanon hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees per capita in the world. In Sep 2020, the total number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon accounted to 879,529. The protracted nature of the displacement coupled with a significant funding gap in humanitarian and development aid from one side and the increased socio-economic needs of refugees and host communities from the other side limited the ability of the state to manage the conflict and turn it into an opportunity.
Agriculture livelihoods, designated as a formal livelihood source facilitating refugees’ inclusion in the job market in Lebanon, are normatively considered temporary economic integration opportunities that improve the food security of refugees and activate rural economies. This is identical for Lebanon where around 60% of refugees are living in rural and marginalized areas, having agriculture the main source of income. Refugees in addition to their host communities are targeted by various livelihoods programs that mainly improve human and social assets and address market access challenges to set the ground for sustainable interventions. Refugees are eventually expected to utilize the skills and knowledge they gain to develop their livelihoods and communities when they decide to voluntarily return to Syria.
In Lebanon, 80-90% of Syrian refugees are experiencing some degree of food insecurity. Ten years into the conflict, Syrian refugees have struggled against multi-dimensional challenges to access basic needs and secure a source of income. The 2019 vulnerability assessment showed that Syrian refugees’ labor force participation accounted to 38% with 66% among men and 11% among women. Refugees are spending around 50% of their income on food, indicating their weak resilience to shocks. Both the economic conflict and the movement restrictions taken to curb the spread of Covid-19 have further exacerbated the situation, resulting in unprecedented high levels of unemployment. According to a recent assessment, 50% of Lebanese and 75% Syrians are worried about not having enough food to eat during the month of May 2020. ESCWA warned in Sep 2020 that around 50% of the population in Lebanon might have difficult access to basic food needs by end of 2020.
Homs is the largest governorate in Syria and had the third largest size of population prior to the conflict (1.8 million in 2011). The rural population accounted for 49% of the total governorate population in 2011. The Syrian Government gained full control over the governorate in 2014-2015. In June 2020, the official number of registered Syrian refugees from Homs in Lebanon was 215,000, accounting to around 24% of total registered Syrian refugees. They are largely distributed in agriculture zones including Akkar, Baalbeck-Hermel and Zahle. Returnee rate among Syrian refugees is still low where around 95 thousand registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon voluntarily returned to Syria since 2012. Homs governorate is among the top governorates with intended return of refugees.
To develop durable solution strategies targeting regional migration crises within the multi-dimensional approach of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), it is important to understand in a protracted situation how specific livelihoods programming (such as agriculture livelihoods in this case) are answering local specific economic needs at sector level to support host communities while equipping refugees with better skills and knowledge. The hypothesis considers that refugees are expected to utilize these skills to improve their temporary economic inclusion in the host country from one side and to re-build economic sectors and diversify them in their country of origin when they decide to voluntarily return from the other side.
In this context, ESCWA is organizing a consultation meeting to share the findings of the case study on “Understanding Livelihood Solutions Under Protracted Forced Displacement: The Case of Homs’ Refugees Population in Lebanon”. The aim of the consultation meeting is to highlight and discuss the main findings of the study based on the conducted secondary and primary reviews that took place during April – June 2020.