Lebanon is a country of approximately 4 million people strained by the influx of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees. More than six years into the Syria crisis, many of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon have become entrenched in poverty as conflict in their home country has stretched on. Many families have been forced to take drastic measures to cover rent, meals, education and other basic needs. Families may go into debt, cut back on meals, sell property or send their children to work. Desperation even drives some refugees to exchange sex for rent or to force their daughters into early marriage to have one less mouth to feed. Many Lebanese families are also struggling to survive in the face of extreme poverty.
These vulnerable families simply want a way to restore dignity and opportunity to their lives. Relief International’s unconditional cash assistance program continues to give them this chance. Now in its fourth year, through support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), this phase of the project provides $175 each month for nine months to 930 severely vulnerable Syrian refugee and Lebanese families in the underserved areas of North, Bekaa, Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
These families receive this cash unconditionally, giving them control over their purchasing decisions and prioritization of needs. RI’s data shows that cash recipients primarily use the money for rent, food and health care. This latest phase of the program will go one step further and connect these families to job training, which will be essential in eventually graduating them from receiving cash assistance.
RI will also provide conditional cash for education assistance to support 500 severely vulnerable Syrian refugee children in Bekaa who are enrolled in school but at high risk of dropping out. RI aims to ensure that these children are able to stay in school through the academic year. To help ensure retention and improve academic performance, these children are also enrolled in homework support groups provided by RI.
Three local partner organizations — selected after submitting proposals to RI — received training from BBC Media Action in social media content creation, blogging and the ethics of social media production. These local NGOs — Basmeh and Zeitouneh (North), Al Hadatha (Akkar), and Nabbad (Bekaa) — also implement community projects such as theatrical performances to raise awareness of important health and legal issues.
To further increase the capabilities of these local NGOs, RI is now providing them with mentorship and tailored management training. RI staff will also provide financial and technical support as these organizations select partners of their own. These new partnerships will revolve around RI’s communications hubs with the aim of improving social cohesion among Syrian refugees and Lebanese, bringing these groups together through their activities.
Overall, RI’s cash assistance program helps Syrian refugees and Lebanese maintain their dignity by prioritizing their own needs and deciding how to spend their funds. By partnering with local organizations and empowering them with communication opportunities, RI continues to build a sustainable foundation for them to improve their own well-being.