UNRWA-AUB Socio-Economic Survey of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon

15 December 2010

15 December 2010

Refugee family in LebanonThe United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in collaboration with the American University of Beirut, conducted in summer 2010 a socio-economic survey on a representative sample of 2,600 Palestine refugee households. This European Union-funded initiative describes the living conditions and welfare status of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. The survey‘s results will help UNRWA understand better the levels of poverty and its determinants, and provide relevant indications for evidence-based programming.

The main results of the survey were as follows:

1. Demographics

  • The number of Palestine refugees residing in Lebanon is 260,000 to 280,000
  • Half of the population is under 25 years old
  • Average household size is 4.5
  • 53 per cent of refugees are women
  • Two-thirds of the Palestinians live in camps. One-third live in gatherings (mainly in camps’ vicinity)
  • Half the Palestine refugees live in the south (Tyre and Saida areas)
  • One-fifth live in the north and one-fifth in Beirut area
  • 4 per cent live in the Beqaa

2. Poverty levels

  • 6.6 per cent are extremely poor i.e they cannot meet their essential daily food needs (compared to 1.7 per cent among Lebanese).
  • 66.4 per cent of Palestine refugees in Lebanon are poor i.e cannot meet their basic food and non-food needs (compared to 35 per cent among Lebanese). 
  • Poverty is higher for refugees living inside camps than those in gatherings.
  • More than 81 per cent of all extremely poor refugees are in Saida and Tyre areas.
  • One-third of all poor live in Tyre area.

3. Employment

  • 56 per cent of Palestinians are jobless
  • 38 per cent of the working age population are employed
  • Two-thirds of Palestinians employed in elementary occupations (like street vendors, work in construction, agriculture) are poor
  • Employment has a small impact on reducing poverty but a large impact on reducing extreme poverty.

4. Education

  • Only half of young people of secondary school age (16-18 years old) are enrolled in schools or vocational training centres
  • High dropout rates and insufficient skills combined with significant labour market restrictions hamper refugees’ ability to find adequate jobs.
  • Educational attainment is a good predictor for household socio-economic status and food security. 
  • Poverty incidence drops to 60.5 per cent when the household head has an above primary educational attainment, and extreme poverty is almost divided by two. 
  • 8 per cent of the Palestine refugee population of school age (7-15 years old) are not enrolled in any school in 2010.
  • 6 per cent of Palestinians are university degree holders (20 per cent for the Lebanese)

5. Food insecurity

  • 15 per cent of Palestinians are severely food insecure and are in acute need of food assistance.
  • 63 per cent describe some food insecurity
  • A quarter or more of households consume inadequate amounts of fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat
  • One-third of the population is not meeting their micronutrient requirements. Micronutrient deficiencies cause stunting, poor cognitive and psychomotor development of children
  • Unhealthy dietary habits are common: 57 per cent eat sweets frequently and 68 per cent consume sweetened drinks and this increases the burden of chronic diseases

6. Health

  • Chronic illnesses affects close to a third of Palestine refugees
  • All households with a disabled head of household live in extreme poverty
  • 21 per cent stated that they experience depression, anxiety, or distress
  • 95 per cent of the population is without medical insurance (UNRWA provides free-of-charge primary and secondary health care to Palestine refugees in Lebanon)
  • A case of acute illness may push a household into poverty

7. Housing conditions

  • 66 per cent of the houses suffer from dampness and leakage thus resulting in psychological and chronic illnesses.
  • Bad housing is concentrated in the south.
  • 8 per cent of households live in shelters where the roof and/or walls are made of corrugated iron, wood or asbestos
  • 8 per cent live in overcrowded conditions (more than three people in one room)

UNRWA’s response

  • The Agency will use the results of this survey as a key advocacy tool in raising awareness with interlocutors – including donors, the Lebanese government and NGO partners - over the plight of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. In doing so UNRWA hopes to demonstrate the very real need to address the priority issues highlighted by the survey.
  • The survey will lead to readjustment of UNRWA programming; ensure that extremely poor refugees are provided with necessary welfare assistance; focus resources on poverty reduction and ensure that the geographical areas in greatest need are targeted as a matter of priority.
  • The employment of Palestine refugees remains a key issue that UNRWA will continue to lobby for. We will support the employability of Palestine refugees through strengthening our vocational training opportunities for young people and seeking to launch a job creation programme, should funding be secured.
  • Finally, recognising that UNRWA alone cannot hope to address all of these problems in a meaningful way, UNRWA will seek to expand its partnerships with other organisations as well as the Lebanese government to ensure the challenges are tackled through a common approach.

This project is funded by the European Union