Over 332,000 Syrian refugees are currently estimated to be in Lebanon, according to the UN, which includes approximately 31,500 displaced Palestinians from Syria – effectively “second-time” refugees.
Many of the Syrian-Palestinians who are fleeing to Lebanon are originally from the camps in Lebanon and are being hosted by relatives and friends. These refugees have papers that permit them to stay in the country for a long period. However, those refugees who are not originally from the camps in Lebanon are having to pay LL25,000 at the border – a prohibitively expensive fee for many – and are then issued with 7-day transit visas that are valid for 15 days. However, given the ongoing conflict in Syria, the Lebanese government is allowing Palestinian refugees from Syria to subsequently obtain a three-month visa free of charge. The Lebanese government’s moratorium which allows Palestinian refugees from Syria with expired visas to return to Syria without being subject to fines at the border remains in place, according to UNRWA. In the meantime, UNRWA is providing free primary health services, including medication supplies, to the refugees coming from Syria who are staying in the camps. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society is also providing free secondary health care services.
In terms of direct intervention, MAP’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) programme offers support to all pregnant women and newborn babies in Nahr al-Bared, Ein El Helweh and Beddawi camps, including the refugees from Syria – whether Syrian, Palestinian or otherwise. Over the most recent quarter, the programme has assisted 32 pregnant women, 9 post-natal mothers and 10 babies displaced from Syria. MAP will try to make sure that all displaced families are offered assistance under the MCH program.
For Palestinians displaced from the camps in Syria, MAP is working with UNRWA to support the medical costs of tertiary care for the most urgent cases.
MAP is also funding psychosocial support to Palestinian families displaced from Syria and host families in camps across Lebanon with local partner, al Najdeh, which specialises in providing psychosocial support to children and women in distress. Psychosocial health is one area that has not been addressed by other agencies, and the need for psychosocial support is one of the most pressing health needs caused by the displacement. The project is being shaped and will include a social/community support component, designed to regenerate the social fabric, improve the sense of belonging and strengthen collective coping mechanisms. Practical support and information, including on medical services, water and sanitation assistance, and food support will also be offered. Individual refugees and families or groups in need of more specialised assistance will be supported with psychosocial counselling or psychological support.
MAP has been supporting al Najdeh’s psychosocial work in several camps in Lebanon since 2010 as part of its regular programme of activities in Lebanon. This and MAP’s other work in Lebanon is continuing without disruption, and the security situation in the camps and in Lebanon is at the moment relatively stable.
MAP continues to monitor the situation closely, particularly Syrian refugees living outside the refugee camps. However, a large number of organisations are already intervening or preparing interventions who are better placed to provide the type of support needed at present. Given the fact that many international agencies are now focusing on the Syrian crisis and reducing their engagement with Palestinian refugees, MAP’s support to the Palestinian communities and their organisations remains our priority.