The UNRWA Special Hardship Case (SHC) programme, the focus of the current survey, was introduced in 1978 to provide a cushion of support to the neediest families among the refugee population in the five fields of UNRWA operations. Upon implementation, the SHC Programme increased the amount of assistance to needy families, compared to that received by other refugees. In 1982, the mass distribution of food rations to the majority of refugees was abolished, and thus the SHC programme remained the main programme that provides food rations to the neediest refugees.
This report examines the socio-economic conditions of SHC families in the five fields of UNRWA operations along all major socio-economic dimensions. It builds on the results of the SHC survey, which offers an overview of the living conditions of the SHC population, as derived through interviews with a representative sample of 3603 SHC families (14,598 individuals) in the five fields. One of the main objectives of the survey was to provide data relevant to a range of policy concerns associated with reforming the SHC programme from the current status-based approach to a needs-based approach. A second objective was to undertake an in-depth policy-relevant analysis of the socio-economic conditions of SHC families, which will serve as a baseline for studying subsequent changes in the patterns of living conditions, particularly after reforming the Programme.