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FEATURE STORY

The World Bank and the Impact of the Syrian Crisis

March 17, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The World Bank is working toward bolstering communities and public services hosting Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon
  • A Multi-Donor Trust Fund has been established to support Lebanon, funds from which may be used to launch programs similar to the ones currently underway in Jordan
  • In parallel with the humanitarian effort, it is essential that basic services and institutions are reinforced to ensure the Syrian crisis does not undermine the stability of neighboring countries

In part, the World Bank’s response to the Syrian crisis has been to shore-up public services in countries affected by it, like Lebanon and Jordan, which together host more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

Though as a development agency, the World Bank Group hasn’t been directly involved with Syria since the start of the uprising there in the spring of 2011, its assistance to Lebanon and Jordan is focused on shoring up services and institutions but has a humanitarian impact. Bank programs are designed to help local communities endure the hardships they too face as a result of the crisis.

“Resilience is the focus of the work we’re doing, trying to make sure local services and local people in countries neighboring Syria aren’t overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees arriving on their doorstep,” said Inger Andersen, the Bank’s Regional Vice-President for the Middle East and North Africa region.

These programs are also designed to ensure Lebanon and Jordan are able to continue receiving and caring for the ongoing stream of refugees.

At a meeting hosted by France’s President Francoise Hollande in Paris this month, Andersen said the Bank had established a Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support Lebanon, and that so far both Norway and France had agreed to contribute. 

Open Quotes

Resilience is the focus of the work we’re doing, trying to make sure local services and local people in countries neighboring Syria aren’t overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees arriving on their doorstep. Close Quotes

Inger Andersen
Regional Vice-President for the Middle East and North Africa region

Lebanon is suffering economic losses as a side-effect of the Syrian crisis, with government revenues expected to fall dramatically because of interrupted trade and the loss of business and consumer confidence.  An extra 300,000 Lebanese may lose their jobs this year; about 170,000 may be pushed into extreme poverty.

The Bank and the Lebanese government have agreed on a Roadmap or reference point for members of the international community looking for specific ways to help Lebanon. The Bank also manages to get critical economic data out of Syria, and is working on a brief to share pre-conflict and other information relevant to what is happening in Syria now.

“My colleagues and I are working together closely with our UN and donor partners to build and strengthen this simultaneous humanitarian/development drive, so to support Lebanon as it struggles with what has become an existential threat to the country,” Andersen said in Paris.

Funds from the Trust Fund may end-up being used to support Lebanon much in the way the Bank is already supporting Jordan, committing US$150 million in July 2013 to provide public hospitals inundated with extra patients with more vaccines and drugs. The funds were also aimed at ensuring Jordan’s poor had access to basic commodities, such as food and cooking gas.

Last October, the Bank also secured a grant of US$50 million, co-financed by Britain, Canada and Switzerland, to help Jordanian municipalities, which were struggling to keep-up with clearing the extra amount of garbage and providing other services to both local communities and refugees.  

Syrian refugees comprise about a quarter of Lebanon’s population of about 4.5 million.  Their presence has strained public services and infrastructure, and in places, fuelled insecurity.  The Bank believes that as many as 1.2 million Syrians may have already fled to Lebanon, and that the number could rise this year to 1.6 million.

In Jordan, which hosts about 600,000 Syrians, it has also pushed-up rents and increased the intensity of competition for local jobs, with Syrians accepting lower wages. Tension between Syrian guests and their Jordanian hosts has risen as a result. The Bank believes that as many as 1.2 million Syrians may have already fled to Lebanon, and that the number could rise this year to 1.6 million.

While caring for the ever growing number of refugees, it is essential that critical basic services and institutions are shored up to prevent the Syrian crisis from undermining the stability of its neighbors.