Syrian Refugees Living in Jordan and Lebanon: Young, Female, at Risk

December 16, 2015

New analysis shows widespread poverty and vulnerability especially among women and youth

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2015—Nearly nine in ten registered Syrian refugees living in Jordan are either poor or expected to be in the near future based on UNHCR’s assistance threshold, according to a joint report released today by the World Bank Group and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. About half the refugees are children, and the majority are women.  

The nearly 1.7 million Syrians who are registered in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon live in precarious circumstances notwithstanding the generosity of hosting governments. Refugees have few legal rights, and face constrained access to public services due to unprecedented demand. The vast majority of these refugees live on the margins, in urban or peri-urban areas, many in informal settlements, rather than in refugee camps.

“The conflict in Syria has led to the largest refugee crisis of our time, with colossal human, economic and social costs for the refugees, host countries and host communities. The plight of the refugees is dire and the lives and dignity of millions is at stake. The crisis has had effects that go beyond the Middle East as desperate refugees are starting to move to Europe and beyond.  We have a collective responsibility to respond to the humanitarian and development crises unfolding in the Middle East and to act on the immediate consequences as well as on the underlying causes of conflict. We should spare no efforts to put the MENA region on the path of stability, peace and prosperity for all”, said Hafez M. H. Ghanem, Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Region, World Bank.

The report, The Welfare of Syrian Refugees: Evidence from Jordan and Lebanon offers a snapshot in 2014 of who these refugees are and their welfare. Compared with the pre-crisis population of Syria, they are younger (81 percent under the age of 35, compared with 73 percent); are more likely to be children (close to 20 percent are children aged 0-4, compared with 11 percent); and they tend to be single (over 60 percent vs. 40 percent).

Poverty among refugees is widespread and expected to worsen in the near future. In 2014, seven in ten registered Syrian refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon could be considered poor.[1] Beyond poverty, a majority of these refugees are also vulnerable to both monetary and food shocks. There is also evidence that poverty has risen in Jordan between 2013 and 2015.

With inadequate quality of education, and less than half of the school-aged Syrian refugee children living in Jordan currently enrolled in public schools, human capital is also deteriorating for young refugees.   Because this population is so young, responding to their unique needs in terms of schooling, training, and health care will have long-term developmental benefits.

This report presents a sobering analysis of the profound poverty of Syrian refugees who have endured shock after shock.  Their situation will only worsen unless there is a dramatic change in opportunity for them to support their own self-reliance and contribute to local economies.  Bringing these insights to policy makers will help design longer term programs, combining humanitarian and development resources,” said Kelly T. Clements, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees.

The report suggests broadening the focus of mitigating the refugee crisis from assistance to economic inclusion, which should also become a critical part of the growth and development strategy for areas hosting refugees. Short-term cash and food assistance programs, while effective, rely entirely on voluntary contributions; due to funding limitations only the most vulnerable refugees are assisted. These programs must therefore be paired with medium- and long-term policies and programs that allow refugees and host communities alike to benefit.

The World Bank Group will continue its close collaboration with UNHCR and other key partners to provide the practical advice, analysis, and support needed to turn a humanitarian crisis into a development opportunity, working towards a more stable, prosperous future for all.

The World Bank Group and Forced Displacement

With 60 million people forcibly displaced globally – as refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers fleeing conflict and persecution – the World Bank Group is concerned about their welfare as well as the impact on host communities, largely concentrated in developing countries. As displacement tends to be protracted, this is a growing global crisis, which requires a development response. Aligned with its goals to end poverty and promote shared prosperity, the Bank is working with partners to help affected countries address this challenge, with technical and financial support that can help both the displaced and their hosts across origin, transit and destination countries.

[1] This estimate is obtained using the monetary threshold adopted by the UNHCR for targeting purposes in Jordan and is based on a welfare aggregate that is net of the UNHCR’s cash assistance program and the WFP’s food voucher program.

Media Contacts
In Washington
Lara Saade
Tel : (202) 473-9887
Cynthia Delgadillo
Tel : (202)-473-9661
In Geneva (UNHCR)
Ariane Rummery
Tel : +41 79 200 7617