As of September 2014, 1’186’896 Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon, with UNHCR planning for 1.5 million individuals by December. This does not include the considerable number of refugees who do not wish to register due to social and political concerns. It is astonishing that such a small country should host about a third of the estimated 3.9 million refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.
The Lebanese population and the local authorities have shown great generosity towards refugees from the very beginning of the crisis three years ago. However, the challenges faced by the Lebanese are too overwhelming to confront alone.
After a series of assessments, it became apparent in late 2012 that RET’s expertise can fill a gap so far unaddressed by the humanitarian response. For this reason, RET decided in early 2013 to launch operations in Lebanon.
The programme, made possible through the generous support of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, focuses on Lebanese and Syrian youth as well as vulnerable young women affected by the Syrian crisis. It is thus built around the needs of both the hosting and the refugee communities.
RET determined to work closely with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) to design a programme to best reach the Lebanese and Syrian youth through the Social Development Centres (SDCs), which MoSA manages. The aim is to reach youth through ten SDCs in the Tripoli +5 and Mount-Lebanon areas. RET’s team also worked closely with UNHCR and the Lebanese MoSA to select the regions where the most help was needed and the specific SDCs where the needs of young people are most acute.
Through the SDCs, RET can provide safe spaces and tailored solutions to the different needs of the communities. The activities focus on youth education and protection, as well as prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. Social cohesion is a cross-cutting preoccupation of RET programmes, in general, and where possible, also in Lebanon.
Youth will benefit from an educational package for literacy, numeracy and the key life skills needed to overcome their current challenges. Prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, accompanied with psychosocial and legal support will empower vulnerable young women. Through RET’s programme greater capacity will be built in the SDCs themselves in order to help face the needs of the Syrian crisis, as it impacts the communities in Lebanon. Finally, a special effort will be made by RET to ensure that all interventions help ease the tense relationships between different communities.
The situation of vulnerable young people in Lebanon is extremely complex and will most likely not be resolved in the short term. RET, thus, strives to bridge the gaps between local hosting communities and refugees in order to build greater social cohesion and a harmonious environment in which all can learn to peacefully live together. It is young people themselves who will ultimately provide lasting solutions; RET aims to offer them the context and skills to do so, galvanising them through this programme to become agents of positive change.