Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Is Anybody Listening, I Still Wonder?

Earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published a map plotting the distribution of Syrian refugees throughout Lebanon (Eye on the East commented about it here: I can only imagine how that map has evolved since, but at the time: 

I look at this map with fear, pain and despair. Fear in thought of how worse the situation can become. Pain for the refugees and their dire situation. Despair at knowing that not enough is being done to assist the refugees, nor to bringing an end to the fighting in Syria, nor towards supporting the Lebanese that are helping the refugees. I believe it is despair more than anything else that I feel…

Needless to say, I still stand by my comments stressing that this is anything but racism and discrimination. The unprecedented number of refugees continues to present a threat to Lebanon as we know it. It is a massive obstacle to the ability of the country to assist the refugees (given limited resources, an already weak infrastructure and poor quality of services), but more importantly, to keep on supporting the Lebanese themselves.

This time, a recently-published United Nations Development Program (UNDP) study highlights the effects of Syrian refugees on Lebanon’s already fragile environmental resources (the full report can be found here). For example, and in very simplified terms, when it comes to waste, there is of course more waste, greater cost to handle it and alleviate environmental degradation because of it, and a greater burden on facilities that are not equipped to handle the unparalleled increase.  As for water, how will Lebanon be able to cope with increased demand, when it can’t even provide enough water to its own citizens to begin with?

The report also expected higher air pollution because of the numbers of refugees given higher car circulation, residential heating, non-environmentally friendly waste management practices and higher electricity production. Will this affect quality of life in Lebanon? Yes. The influx of Syrian refugees has increased Lebanon’s population density by about 37%, the reported noted, raising Lebanon’s ranking to 16 on the world population density index, with around 400 to 520 persons/km2. “Such densification results in many environmental and social stresses on host communities including: more waste generation, water and sanitation problems, more vehicles and scooters on the roads, noise pollution, and crowdedness,” the report noted.

I cannot say this enough. This isn’t about discrimination but the ability of Lebanon to protect itself and its people and help the Syrian refugees as a result. This isn’t about Lebanon not wanting to help, but about the realization that it is everybody’s responsibility, not only that of Lebanon, to help and each within their own means. This isn’t about Lebanon’s willingness to help, but on the question of whether other countries would have been so welcoming of refugees in the first place and received so many desperately fleeing war and death. This isn’t only a shout for help for Lebanon – to help refugees and the Lebanese helping them – but an angry demand to the world to help end this bloody war and the terrible humanitarian crisis it has unleashed.

Is anybody out there? Is anybody really listening, I still wonder?

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