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Zahle-LB-AccionHambre-LysArango25 Lys Arango


Syrian crisis

In Lebanon,
Syrian refugees at risk of being forgotten

On the dirt road separating the rows of shops with white canopies, Ali passes by, sitting on his throne. The wheels of his wheelchair are covered with mud, his sister Fatima pushes with all her strength to avoid getting stuck in the mud. Ali Mohammed is 12 years old and suffers from muscular dystrophy. He arrived in Lebanon, carried by his father, after the army bombed his house in Homs.

He lives in Ghaze 003, one of 1500 informal camps of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley. « When we arrived, I thought we would only stay a few weeks », says Ali. « But the weeks have turned into months and months to years », he says with deep sadness.

Already 4 years have gone by, and his future seems increasingly complex and uncertain: he has not been able to return to high school, and the economic situation of his family is catastrophic.

Rui Oliveira, Impact Director for the Syrian Crisis at Action Against Hunger explains: « After so many years of crisis, this seems like the last straw: at this point, the one and a half million refugees in Lebanon have sold the few goods they had brought with them, and their savings ran out during the first months of refuge in the country. »


Ali’s father was a teacher, but the Lebanese government does not allow him to practice his profession. As a Syrian refugee, he can only work in agriculture, construction and the environment. Yet to work in these areas he would need a residence permit costing US $200 a year. Unable to afford it, he spent days sitting in the camp waiting for an informal job as a farm worker. « I feel very frustrated at not being able to support my family, and when I go out I am afraid of being captured as an undocumented worker by the Lebanese authorities. »

Humanitarian aid is reaching its limit: « We supply basic products. We would like to do more, but the refugees’ legal situation does not allow us to implement medium or long-term projects », says Oliveira.

Syrian families therefore use extreme livelihood mechanisms often resulting in early marriage, child labour and exploitation, according to several UN rapporteurs.

This is the case for Ali’s family. His brother Ibrahim, aged 14, works in a potato field for $5 a day. « It’s very hard to work so many hours in the sun without shade», said the boy. « I harvest potatoes in a 20 kilo sack, which I then have to bring to the collection point », he says.

Fortunately, the Lebanese government has shown that it wants to solve this problem. « We hope that in a short time free residence permits for Syrians registered with UNHCR will be approved. Residence is the first obstacle, since without legal documents it is not possible to access an employment contract », says Oliveira.

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