The Syrian crisis has added to Lebanon’s already complex situation that included decades of sectarian tensions with periods of stability and internal turmoil. Lebanon has received over 1.1 million Syrian refugees, of which over 50% are under the age of 18. This proves to be a major difficulty for Lebanon due to its limited means to provide for both its people and the refugees. Young people in these situations are at high risk of violence, a consequence of situations of crisis and precarious conditions and environments. RET has been working in Lebanon to maintain the social fabric and stability of vulnerable communities, through a focus on youth literacy and life skills, as well as, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence.
The Crisis Affecting Lebanon
Its Impact on Young People
How RET Protects Them
1. The Crisis Affecting Lebanon
Since achieving its independence in 1943, Lebanon has witnessed a succession of periods of stability and internal turmoil. Built along sectarian lines in order to respond to internal complexities, this model of government did not manage to contain the important disputes among the different groups, leading to a full-scale civil war in the 70s. Despite international intervention to end this conflict (in 1990), internal sectarian tensions were never truly eliminated and conflicts within and with neighbouring countries have characterised the 1990s and the 2000s.
Presently, the on-going Syrian crisis has added to the complexity of Lebanon’s situation. Since 2011, at least 1.1 million Syrian refugees have officially registered in Lebanon, many more are not even registered. Of these registered refugees, more than 50% are under the age of 18.
With already limited means to provide fundamental needs to their own population, specifically in the areas most affected by the consequences of the Syrian crisis, the Government of Lebanon faces enormous difficulties to offer decent living standards to the refugee population, which amounts to almost a third of the entire population.
The crisis has important consequences on the security situation within the country, with heavy repercussions in the lives of hosting and refugee communities. In Tripoli, for example, sectarian violence exacerbates the situation of tension, where families feel unsafe and even lack access to basic needs like fresh water.
2. Its Impact on Young People
Both the Syrian Crisis and lasting tensions in Lebanon have impacted local society. But even more so, they will have lasting and resounding effects on young people.
Young people in Lebanon not only suffer from the lack of services, but are also at risk of violence and recruitment into rebel groups and political factions. Although Syrian refugees may have escaped the conflict, UNCHR reports a rise of violence within families sparked by economic struggles and lack of opportunities. On average, 17 people (3.32 families) live per household, which increases the likelihood of domestic violence due to economic stress.
Young people who are unemployed and under-educated are the most at risk of being sucked into the vacuum of violence. Given the long-lasting crisis, education coupled with an enhanced social cohesion and protection programme, can bridge the gap between necessary humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance.
3. How RET Protects Them
Since 2013, RET has been working in Lebanon to ensure social and economic development of conflict-affected populations. Based in the Tripoli (plus 5 surrounding districts) and the Mount Lebanon Area, RET reaches both Syrian and Lebanese youth aged between 12 and 25 through Social Development Centres administrated by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
There, they benefit from an educational package consisting of literacy, numeracy and life skills as well as prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. RET’s mission of protecting young people is thus clearly adapted to Lebanon.
RET has also provided school rehabilitation, has adapted and created safe environments, which are essential ingredients to quality education.
In Lebanon, young people themselves will ultimately be the ones able provide lasting solutions as they grow to lead their communities. As everywhere, RET, therefore, aims to provide them with the tools and skills to do so.