Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR) 2018

UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, December 2018


This report examines the socio-economic situation of a representative sample of Syrian refugee families in Lebanon. The survey covered 4,446 Syrian refugee households randomly selected from 26 districts across Lebanon, and representative at district, governorate and national level. Key findings:

  • Demographic profile: 54 percent of the refugee population is under the age of 18. While there are almost equal numbers of male and female refugees (49.5 percent male, 50.5 percent female), there are fewer males aged 20-29, possibly because men in this age range are drafted into the army, resettle in a third country or are reluctant to make their presence known. 29 percent of girls aged 15-19 were married.
  • Household characteristics: Average household size has declined from 7.7 in 2013 to 4.9 in 2018. 18 percent of households are female-headed. The average dependency ratio was 1.02. 64 percent of households have at least one member with a specific need such as chronic illness, disability, temporary illness, serious medical condition or in need of support in daily activities. 5 percent of households have at least one child who is disabled.
  • Legal documentation: 73 percent of refugees aged 15 and older reported not having legal residency. The main obstacle cited was the cost of renewal (76 percent) or difficulty finding a sponsor (27 percent).
  • Relations with host community: The majority of households (51 percent) reported that their relationship with the host community was positive or very positive. Only 3 percent of households reported experiencing a security incident in the last three months (most commonly verbal harassment, arrests and detention).
  • Child labor and marriage: 2 percent of Syrian refugee children aged 5-17 were engaged in child labor. Boys were more affected than girls (3.4 percent versus 0.9 percent). 1 percent of girls aged 13 to 17 were married.
  • Housing: 66 percent of households were living in residential buildings (apartments or houses), 19 percent were living in non-permanent structures (mostly informal tented settlements), and 15 percent were living in non-residential structures (agricultural rooms, engine rooms, pump rooms, construction sites, garages and farms). There is wide variation across governorates, with largest shares of refugee households living in residential buildings in Beirut, Mount Lebanon and El Nabatieh (91 percent to 85 percent), and the largest shares of refugee households living in non-permanent shelters in Baalbek-El Hermel, Bekaa and Akkar (51 percent to 29 percent). Rent cost was the most commonly cited reason for selecting a place of residence. 30 percent of households were living in shelters that did not meet humanitarian standards, and a further 5 percent were living in shelters in dangerous conditions. 34 percent refugee families were living in overcrowded shelters (less than 4.5 square meters per person). Eviction is one of the main reasons forcing refugees out of their homes. 37 percent of households who changed accommodation in the last six months did so due to eviction by landlord or authorities.
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene: 91 percent of households reported using improved drinking water sources; the main sources of improved drinking water are bottled mineral water (43 percent), water taps/network (14 percent), and water tanks/trucked water (8 percent). 85 percent reported use of basic drinking water services (i.e. water source in dwelling/yard/plot or water source within 30 minute round trip). 87 percent of households had access to improved sanitation facilities, and 68 percent of households used facilities that were not shared.
  • Energy: 97 percent of households had access to electricity. 95 percent of refugees were using electricity from the national grid, through either legal or illegal connections, but 56 percent also relied on private generators.
  • Education: There are around 488,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children in Lebanon (3-18 years). Enrollment rates by age (regardless of the grade level they are enrolled in) are: 20 percent for pre-primary education (ages 3-5); 68 percent for children aged 6-14; and 23 percent for children aged 15-17. More than half of refugee children (aged 3 to 17) were still out of school, mainly adolescents and youth. Starting at age 12, boys are especially vulnerable to dropping out. The main reasons for not attending school were cost of transportation (21 percent) and cost of educational materials (19 percent), with the need to work becoming more prevalent among upper secondary children (10 percent of children aged 15-17). 61 percent of Syrian refugees aged 15 to 24 were not employed, not in education, and not attending any training (NEET). While more girls than boys are enrolled in secondary school, the NEET rate is higher for female youth (79 percent) than for males (41 percent), due to lower female employment. The NEET rate is higher among youth 19 to 24 years of age (67 percent) than those aged 15 to 18 (54 percent).
  • Health: 87 percent of households reported receiving required primary health care (PHC) services (varying from 70 percent in Beirut and Mount Lebanon to 98 percent in Akkar). Most households received services through PHC outlets. Half of households received subsidized health care, 7 percent benefited from free health care, and 20 percent paid in full. Three quarters of households requiring hospitalization were able to access it. The main barrier to accessing PHC or hospitalization was cost (of service, treatment/medication, transportation).
  • Food security: 34 percent of households are moderately to severely food insecure. Food-insecure households had lower per capita expenditures and more debt, and they allocated the majority of their expenditures to food. Female-headed households are more vulnerable than male-headed households. One third of Syrian refugees had poor food consumption scores. Households reported using coping strategies that depleted their assets to cope with lack of food or money to buy it, including: buying food on credit (79 percent), reducing food expenses (75 percent), reducing expenses on health (51 percent) and education (22 percent), spending savings (30 percent), and selling household goods (22 percent).
  • Economic vulnerability: 51 percent of Syrian refugees are below the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) of US$ 2.90 per person per day. 69 percent of households are below the poverty line. Nearly 9 out of 10 households acquired debt and 82 percent borrowed money during the three months prior to the survey, indicating that refugee households continued to lack enough resources to cover their essential needs. Households headed by females are more vulnerable than those headed by males.
  • Livelihoods: The labor force participation rate was 43 percent (73 percent for men, 16 percent for women). 68 percent of households had at least one working member. Nearly one in five working males (and one in ten working females) had more than one job. Only one in four employed Syrian refugees reported having regular work. While men worked mostly in construction (32 percent), agricultural activities (21 percent) and occasional work (11 percent), the few women that were employed worked mainly in agricultural activities (38 percent), occasional work (10 percent) and cleaning (4 percent). The average unemployment rate was 40 percent (61 percent for women, 35 percent for men), varying significantly across governorates. Sources of household income remained unsustainable: 26 percent reported WFP assistance as their primary source of income, followed by informal credit/debt (16 percent), construction (16 percent), services (11 percent) and agriculture (9 percent).
  • Coping strategies: Nine out of ten households adopted food-related coping strategies, most commonly: consuming less preferred/less expensive foods (86 percent), reducing the number of meals (57 percent) or reducing portion size (51 percent). 97 percent of households have applied a livelihood coping strategy, most commonly: buying food on credit (79 percent), reducing essential non-food expenditures (55 percent), reducing expenditures on health (51 percent) and spending savings (30 percent).
  • Assistance: Between 2017 and 2018, more than 170,000 of the most vulnerable families were reached with UNHCR or WFGP cash-based assistance (cash for winter, cash for food, multipurpose cash, child-focused grants).
  • Gender: Female-headed households remain more vulnerable than male-headed households, possibly because 55 percent of female-headed households did not have any member working (compared to 27 percent of male-headed households). Unemployment is a particular challenge for women (61 percent unemployment rate compared to 35 percent for men). Female-headed households resort to more negative coping strategies than male-headed households. Shelter types for female-headed households are more frequently non-permanent and non-residential structures (45 percent residing in non-permanent and nonresidential shelters, compared to 33 percent of male-headed households). A larger proportion of female-headed households identified proximity to family as a determining factor for choosing accommodation. While female-headed households had nearly equal access to an improved drinking water source compared to their male counterparts, they had less access to basic sanitation services. The gender parity index indicated that the number of girls in primary school remained almost equal to that of boys. For secondary school, more girls are enrolled than boys, particularly in upper secondary (grades 10-12). There was a significant difference in the rates of child labor between boys and girls (3.4 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively). Early marriage is a concern, with three in ten girls between the ages of 15 and 19 currently married.