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A small country is facing an extreme endurance test


Lebanon is facing an extreme endurance test. No other country has welcomed as many refugees in proportion to its population as this small sovereign state in the Middle East. Around 1.1 million people from Syria have sought shelter from the civil war in the neighbouring country of Lebanon. A major challenge for the approximately 4.5 million inhabitants and a country with around 450,000 Palestinian refugees – some of whom have been living in camps for decades.

The supply situation is terrible: In more than 90% of refugee households, food is not guaranteed. 70 per cent of the refugees live below the poverty line, and more than half live in inadequate temporary accommodation. Over 75% of child refugees from Syria cannot go to school.


High national debt and collapsed markets

View of Beirut (photo: Flickr, Julie Lindsay (CC BY 2.0))
View of Beirut (photo: Flickr, Julie Lindsay (CC BY 2.0))

Before the civil war (1975-1990), Lebanon was one of the most important trade and financial centres in the Middle East. The banking metropolis of Beirut served as a link between Europe and the Persian Gulf countries. The country was unable to regain this position after the war. The reconstruction of Lebanon was financed using credit, and the country’s national debt is one of the highest in the world. The war in Syria has hit the Lebanese economy badly.

Container ship in the Port of Beirut
Container ship in Beirut harbour (photo: BMZ)

Tourism, one of the country’s most important sources of income, also slumped, as did exports to the Gulf states – the majority of which were transported through Syria. In Syria itself, a key market for Lebanese products also collapsed.

One of the country’s most important resources is its well-trained workforce, which transfers currency from abroad to Lebanon. Meanwhile, however, there is a lack of expertise in the homeland with which to promote the country’s development.

Connection with Germany

Support for sustainable stability

Water provision in the Beqaa Valley refugee camp, photo: EU Commission DG ECHO (2014_07_24_NRC_Syr_Refugees_Leb_sam_tarling_MGL3264)
Water provision in the Beqaa Valley refugee camp, photo: Flickr, EU Commission DG ECHO (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Since 2012, the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has donated EUR 483.85 million to Lebanon. The focal points are education and water and sanitation provision. Special measures are also being taken to support Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities.

In the fifth year of the Syrian crisis, the need for humanitarian aid and development cooperation in Lebanon continues to grow. Various cooperation tools must be used in order to sustainably contribute to the stabilisation of the country.

Children learning in a refugee camp in Lebanon
Germany supports UNICEF’s “No lost generation” initiative (photo: BMZ)

From quickly effective emergency and transitional aid to long-term building investments. Since 2016, Germany has financed thematic and regional programmes, as well as emergency measures and long-term measures relating to technical and financial cooperation.

For 2016, projects relating to education and vocational training, basic infrastructure (water supply and sanitation), and support for refugees and host communities are being planned.

Need for support in the host communities

Migration is a huge burden

Syrian and native children playing football in a backyard in Baalbek, Lebanon
Peace work with Syrian refugees and locals in Baalbek (photo: BMZ)

Syrian refugees currently account for 25% of the population of Lebanon. Most refugees live in communities and cities nationwide, especially in the poorer areas in the north of the country, in the Beqaa Valley, and in the capital, Beirut. The migration of the Syrian refugees is an extreme burden on the Lebanese host communities.

Women with and without headscarf in open dialogue at a university
The BMZ supports the Civil Peace Forum (forum ZFD) (photo: Pixabay)

Between May and August 2016, the Service Agency Communities in One World determined the support requirements of Lebanese municipalities in terms of their hosting capacity. The main focus was on the question of where municipal expertise was needed, and which contributions from German municipalities or local actors could be used to assist host communities.

Stray cat in defaced residential area in Beirut, Lebanon
Waste management is just one of the problems, photo: Flickr, Maya-Anaïs Yataghène (CC BY 2.0)

The needs analysis for Lebanon identified four areas of activity on municipal levels in which Lebanese host communities have particular need for support: Institutional (e.g. local governance, organisational and personnel management, administration, financial planning, project management) and technical requirements (e.g. working with technical programmes, database and knowledge management), as well as requirements in the fields of cooperation (e.g. collaboration with political actors and organisations, community-oriented municipalities, inter-municipal relations) and municipal services.

Mohammad Abd el Aal shows his lower leg prosthesis
Mohammad Abd el Aal (12) lost the lower part of one of his legs, due to a cluster bomb (photo: Flickr, Cluster Munition Coalition (CC BY 2.0)

In the later field of activity, all municipalities involved reported bottlenecks in terms of power supply and in the field of water, wastewater and waste management. Many municipalities have twice as much waste as before the refugee crisis. This cannot be tackled using the existing equipment and conventional solutions. As part of the project partnerships, German municipalities could help to develop efficient disposal concepts.

Another problem area in the host communities in Lebanon is healthcare provision, because many services – in particular hospitalisation and intensive care – cannot be provided to refugees. The expertise of German municipalities can be invaluable in terms of constructing healthcare facilities, providing equipment or planning process flows.

Syrian and local children learning together in a Lebanese school
Syrian child refugees in a Lebanese school (photo: BMZ)

In the field of education, additional classrooms could be built thanks to international donations and funds from the Lebanese government. However, the number of child refugees who are not in school remains high. The fields of employment, social unrest and integration are also relevant to host communities in Lebanon, and could be issues dealt with in municipal partnership projects. The design and establishment of integration committees and civil dialogue could greatly benefit from the experience of German municipalities.

Opportunities for involvement

There are several ways in which you can get involved in your municipality.
We will be happy to advise you on the different areas of activity, and how you can get involved.
Get in touch with out points of contact directly, or fill in the interest form.

Recommended links

Would you like to find out more about Lebanon?

More information can be found in the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH (German Society for International Cooperation) Country Information Portal.

Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey

Statistics, facts and figures on the host communities