Lebanon is on the brink of collapse. It has experienced a self-inflicted financial and economic meltdown, the pandemic, and the massive blast at the Port of Beirut. Saddled with a faltering confessional governance structure, unable to undertake reforms and unlock foreign assistance, sectarian and social tensions are rising as the economy spirals downward. GDP decreased 20.3 percent in 2020 and is projected to decline 9.5 percent in 2021.

In these indexes and others, Lebanon’s Syrian refugees are doing worse than their hosts. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that Lebanon has 865,530 registered Syrian refugees and estimates all Syrians in Lebanon at 1.5 million. Worldwide, Lebanon is second only to the island of Aruba and its displaced Venezuelans in the ratio of refugees to the native population.

An estimated 90 percent of Syrian refugee households live in extreme poverty, up from 55 percent in early 2019. The U.N. says these households are living on less than half the Lebanese minimum wage, roughly $36 monthly and shrinking in real terms. This means deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation, health, shelter, and education. Indeed, over 80 percent of Syrian refugees lack legal residency since Lebanon stopped allowing UNHCR to register Syrians in 2015.

The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of the refugees’ precarious health situation. Syrian refugees face a death rate more than four times the national average. UNHCR pays 85 percent of primary health care costs for refugees. Support also comes from local and foreign NGOs, the World Bank, and others. Though numbers are hard to come by, as of April 5, some 1,159 Syrians had been vaccinated. There are serious issues around registration and access to information, with refugees fearing arrests, deportations, etc.

Read the full article about Syrian refugees in Lebanon by Omer Karasapan and Sajjad Shah at Brookings.