UK Support for Humanitarian Relief in the Middle East - International Development Committee Contents

3  Humanitarian situation in neighbouring countries

20. Over 2.3 million refugees have fled Syria since the conflict began, mostly to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.[32] The Norwegian Refugee Council states: "Thousands of displaced Syrians are prevented from seeking protection and assistance in the neighbouring countries due to various degrees of border control and regulations, Palestine refugees from Syria are a group of particular concern, as the lack of citizenship is used as a pretext to treat them differently from their Syrian compatriots."[33] The table below shows the number of refugees by country:
Country Registered refugees (date of last update) Refugees awaiting registration (date of last update)
Lebanon 1,061,355 (23/06/2014) 48,926 (23/06/2014)
Turkey 789,219 (23/06/2014) n/a
Jordan 597,328 (08/06/2014) n/a
Iraq217,795 (15/06/2014) 7,680 (15/06/2014)
Egypt137,994 (23/06/2014) n/a

Source: adapted from UNHCR, 'Syria Regional Refugee Response: Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal' accessed 24 June 2014

DFID's spending

21. Since the crisis began, DFID has allocated £292.6 million for humanitarian assistance in the neighbouring countries. This is to address a number of challenges across various sectors, including health, education and food security.[34] The table below indicates how DFID's money is being spent.
  Funding allocation (£m)
Organisation Jordan Lebanon Turkey Iraq Egypt Regional Total
UN World Food Programme (WFP) 38.837.8 9.82.2 0.2  88.8
UN Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) 22.515.9 4.87.2   1.251.6
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 25.816.5 1.45.5 1.7  50.9
International Rescue Committee (IRC) 4.35.3   1.8    11.4
Doctors of the World (MdM) 54.7      0.810.5
UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) 2.27.7        9.9
Danish Refugee Council (DRC) 4.5  5     9.5
Handicap International 3.43.6        7
Save the Children International   6.3  0.20.4   6.9
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) 15.6        6.6
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 1.93.5        5.4
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)   4       4
Government of Lebanon   3.7       3.7
Oxfam  3.6        3.6
World Health Organisation (WHO) 1.8       0.82.6
CARE International 2         2
Islamic Relief 2         2
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 2         2
World Vision International   1.9       1.9
Turkish Red Crescent (TRC)    1      1
Undisclosed humanitarian agencies, not named for security reasons (operating outside of the UN led response) 1.84 2.11.2    9.1
Technical assistance to humanitarian partners and DFID in the region   0.20.1 0.1  1.82.2
Total 119.0 124.3 24.2 18.2 2.3 4.6 292.6

Source: adapted from DFID, UK Aid Syria Response (June 2014)

This table shows DFID's spending in the neighbouring countries expressed in pounds per refugee:
Country DFID funding allocation since beginning of crisis (£m) DFID funding allocation since beginning of crisis (pounds per refugee)
Lebanon 124.3£117.10
Turkey 24.2£30.66
Jordan 119.0£199.22
Iraq18.2 £83.56
Egypt 2.3£16.67

22. The countries bordering Syria have taken in an extraordinary number of refugees. In countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, organisations working to provide assistance face a very challenging situation. We fully support the efforts of such organisations.

23. Syria and its neighbours are all middle-income countries; DFID would ordinarily be expected to stop operating in these countries once the humanitarian crisis is over. In the case of Jordan, however, the Minister of State told us that:

    Given the severity and the longevity of the Syrian crisis, and the fact that, although we would like to see people go back to Syria, there is not much of a country to go back to, what we need to plan for in Jordan is a medium-term stability programme. I would shy away from calling it a bilateral programme, because it would not be a classic bilateral programme, but some kind of DFID involvement to underpin the stability of the country would be sensible and responsible. Quite what degree of funding it might require is as yet un-designed. It may be that it is not an enormous amount, but a smaller amount focused in the right way - public financial management, designing an education system or whatever it might be.[35]

In addition, DFID is already providing support to local municipalities in Jordan.[36]

24. As the Minister of State rightly highlighted, maintaining the stability of Jordan is critical. DFID should launch a development programme in Jordan for the medium-term, in addition to its existing humanitarian work and support to municipalities. We look at how to implement this programme below.

Impact on host communities

25. The countries bordering Syria have granted refugees access to public services: in this respect, these countries' contribution to the humanitarian effort far outstrips any of the conventional "donors".[37] However, this is placing great strain on the host communities.[38] Nigel Pont told us:

    The situation in Lebanon is of greatest concern to us, with a quarter of the population now being refugees […] I think Lebanon is where we have most concern but Jordan is also of great concern to us. The subject of water in Jordan is particularly interesting in this context. […] Before the conflict started, Jordan was the fourth-most water scarce country in the world. It is now the third.[39]

He went on to say

    "we need to invest more in host communities. That is the bottom line. It has to be done, or we will see the tensions rise in the future. Despite the resource constraints, resources need to be prioritised for those activities. There are a lot of incredibly poor, local families who are seeing high levels of assistance, unmatched by local social security services, going to target refugee families. This is exacerbating the situation."[40]

In Lebanon, there is an additional risk of tensions between confessional groups. The Lebanese population includes a number of different religious groups; the influx of (mostly Sunni) Syrian refugees could lead to tensions between and within these groups.[41]

26. In countries bordering Syria, it would be a mistake for donors to provide assistance to refugees without also providing assistance to host communities. Doing so would almost inevitably lead to an increase in tensions between the two groups: if their own needs were neglected, poor families in host communities would understandably feel resentful towards refugees receiving international assistance. In Lebanon and Jordan, DFID should ensure that its humanitarian assistance benefits needy host communities as well as refugees.


27. In Jordan a number of large-scale refugee camps have been constructed. The Zaatari camp, which we visited, now houses around 100,000 refugees; another large camp has recently opened at Azraq.[42] Yet 80% of refugees in Jordan are living in host communities (towns and villages) rather than camps.[43] In Lebanon there are no large-scale refugee camps at all. The Minister of State said: "we are talking to the Government [of Lebanon] about trying to find places where you might have quasi-camps, but there is a lot of local resistance to such things […] you have to get community support."[44] Jehangir Malik, UK Director of Islamic Relief, told us: "I do not think Jordan and Lebanon want camps, with the risk of them becoming permanent settlements. We have seen that in other conflicts, where in protracted crises these camps turn into longer-term cities, towns and dwellings; there is that political factor."[45] Across the region as a whole, 85% of refugees are living in host communities.[46]

28. The Minister of State argued that refugees in host communities often received support from members of those communities, or from members of their own extended families.[47] Nevertheless, life for such refugees is undeniably difficult. Jehangir Malik said:

    I have seen some horrific dwellings in monitoring and evaluation visits in Jordan and in Lebanon. It is primarily because people have left their homes with no money at all, and the cost of living inside Lebanon and Jordan is extremely high. It is $300 minimum for a room in some of these locations.[48]

Refugees in host communities face difficulties in registering with UNHCR, understanding their rights and possible sources of support, and accessing services.[49] We visited a family living in a host community in southern Lebanon: the mother and her children never went outside as they did not feel safe. Nigel Pont told us that the amount of aid given to support refugees in camps (and particularly in the Zaatari camp) vis-à-vis those in host communities was "disproportionate"; he argued that providing aid in camps was "easier".[50] The Minister of State echoed this latter point, saying: "you know where they are when they are in camps. They are more difficult to disentangle from the communities if they are in the community."[51] However, he told us that despite this DFID was focusing increasingly on host communities.[52] Matthew Wyatt, Head of DFID's Syria Crisis Unit, added:

    Through the agencies that we are working with in providing humanitarian support, much of that support is going to host communties as well as to the refugees […] we provided £4 million for text books in Lebanon. That very explicitly was for all those people going to state schools in Lebanon, who by definition tend to be the poorest, because only a third of Lebanese children go to state schools. The others are in private education. All the children in school will benefit from that - both the refugees and the host communities. […] we are trying to shape the programme to make sure that we are reaching people on the basis of need, rather than on the basis of their status as a refugee or not.[53]

29. We are concerned that refugees in host communities receive disproportionately little international assistance by comparison with those in refugee camps, possibly because aid in refugee camps is easier to provide. In countries bordering Syria, DFID must ensure that an appropriate share of its humanitarian aid reaches refugees in host communities, who make up 85% of the total Syrian refugee population. DFID should also monitor levels of child marriage and domestic violence in these communities.


30. A quarter of all children in Lebanon, together with almost 10% of children in Jordan, are Syrian refugees. Providing these children with an adequate education is a huge challenge. Save the Children argues that donors should provide additional funding to enable schools to operate two "shifts" (one in the morning and one in the afternoon);[54] during our visit to Jordan we were told that the total number of Jordanian primary schools doing this was just 350 - a relatively small proportion. Across the region there are a range of informal learning programmes, which seek to provide some basic education to children who are unable to attend school: examples include the "family-friendly spaces" run by Intersos with support from UNICEF and DFID, two of which we visited.

31. Refugee children who are fortunate enough to enrol in school still face a number of challenges, including social isolation and the difficulty of adapting to a different curriculum.[55] In countries such as Lebanon, language is a major problem: during our visit we were told that whilst the Syrian curriculum is taught entirely in Arabic, the Lebanese curriculum is taught jointly in Arabic, French and English.[56] Lindy Cameron, DFID's Director for the Middle East, Conflict and Humanitarian, said:

    younger primary school children are still at a stage where, much like Arabic-speaking Lebanese children, they can learn a second language of English or French in order to assimilate into that system. For older children, who have gone through their whole education in Arabic, it is much harder to integrate.[57]

32. In her evidence Maria Calivis stressed that in order to learn effectively, many refugee children also require psychosocial support:

    one of the barriers to learning, even when kids have access, is the fact that they have unresolved trauma and big emotional blockages. Therefore, the investment in psychosocial support and emotional recovery is so important for these kids to succeed. Just one year ago, in every three families that used to cross, there would be one or two kids that were affected psychologically by the war. Now, no kids come across the borders that are not affected.[58]

She went on to say that:

    there is now a very good local capacity of Jordanians and Lebanese NGOs that can impart psychosocial support. The one thing is that the demand is far greater, and therefore the quality suffers.[59]

The Minister of State told us that DFID was already providing funds for trauma care for refugee children.[60]

33. As a consequence of all these challenges, two-thirds of refugee children (over 500,000) are now out of school,[61] together with over 2.5 million children who remain in Syria.[62] In both cases the numbers continue to rise, and research indicates that the longer a child is out of school, the less likely he or she is ever to return.[63] Maria Calivis argued that donors should give greater priority to education, with a particular focus on ensuring that the youngest - whose chances of completing their education should be much greater - are able to attend pre-school.[64]

34. The astonishingly high number of Syrian children who are out of school is cause for grave concern. If an entire generation of children is unable to complete its education, the long-term implications for the stability of Syria and the wider region will be very serious indeed. Ensuring that Syrian refugee children receive an adequate education should remain a top priority for DFID. DFID should allocate additional funds to support the operation of "double shifts" in schools. To support children who are unable to enrol in school, DFID should scale up its support for informal learning mechanisms such as "family-friendly spaces." DFID should also allocate additional funds for the provision of psychosocial support, to enable traumatised children to re-engage with education.


35. During our visit we discussed the position of Syrian refugees in the labour market. We were told that Syrian refugees were allowed to work in Lebanon provided they had entered the country legally, but that in Jordan this was not generally the case. There are some exceptions - we were told, for example, that Syrian refugees have found employment in a supermarket in the Zaatari refugee camp. However, when the Norwegian Refugee Council sought to support the provision of vocational training to young Syrian refugees, the Government of Jordan prevented such activity.[65]

36. The Jordanian position is perfectly understandable, especially given possible concerns about unemployment. However, if Jordan changed its stance and allowed Syrian refugees to work, they would be able to contribute to the economy and pay taxes. Skilled members of the refugee population, such as doctors and teachers, could make a particularly valuable contribution. When we asked him about this Amin Awad, Director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa Office, said: "I think the Ministry of Planning and the Government of Jordan at the highest levels are changing their narrative. […] Instead of having them sitting idle, the question is how best they can use professionals, technical, casual or skilled labour in their national plan to sustain the country."[66] However, the Minister of State said: "The Jordanian Government is looking at this but I think they are reluctant. […] This is primarily a matter for the Jordanians."[67]

37. The Jordanian Government's reluctance to allow Syrian refugees to work is entirely understandable, especially given the risk of rising unemployment amongst the native Jordanian population. However, allowing Syrian refugees to work would have many potential benefits, especially in the case of skilled professionals such as doctors and teachers. Whilst recognising the inherent political sensitivities of the issue, we recommend that the UK encourage the Government of Jordan to allow Syrian refugees to work.

National plans

38. In January 2014, the Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation published a draft National Resilience Plan (NRP): a table summarising its contents is included as an Annex to this report. The document covers the period from 2014 to 2016, and sets out precisely what support the Government of Jordan needs from international donors: needs are especially great in the four governorates with the highest refugee populations (Irbid, Mafraq, Amman and Zarqa). The NRP encourages donors to deliver their assistance through the Government of Jordan's own channels.[68]

39. Similarly, the Government of Lebanon requested that the World Bank, together with the EU, UN and IMF, conduct an "Economic and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the Syrian Conflict." In a similar way to the Jordanian NRP, this document sets out precisely what support the Government of Lebanon needs from international donors.[69] Again, a table summarising its contents is included as an Annex to this report.

40. In their evidence to us, both Amin Awad and Maria Calivis said that donors such as DFID should use the NRP and the ESIA as the basis of its assistance to Jordan and Lebanon respectively.[70] In the case of Lebanon, Maria Calivis argued that donors should also refer to the Lebanese Government's three-year education plan.[71] The Minister of State was less emphatic, describing the NRP as merely "a very good starting point for assessing needs in Jordan."[72] DFID should use the National Resilience Plan and the Economic and Social Impact Assessment as the basis of its assistance to Jordan and Lebanon respectively.

32   DFID (MID0053) para 8 Back

33   Norwegian Refugee Council (MID0059) para 3 Back

34   DFID, UK Aid Syria Response (June 2014), p 4 Back

35   Q 138 Back

36   DFID (MID0053) para 5 Back

37   UNHCR country pages for Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt (accessed 24 June 2014) Back

38   International Rescue Committee (MID0061) para 19 Back

39   Q 14 Back

40   Q 20 Back

41   Q 14 Back

42   "Jordan opens a new desert camp for Syrian refugees at Azraq", UNHCR, 30 April 2014 Back

43   Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Final Draft National Resilience Plan 2014-2016 (May 2014), p 52 Back

44   Q 140 Back

45   Q 19 Back

46   International Rescue Committee (MID0061) para 22 Back

47   Q 140 Back

48   Q 18 Back

49   International Rescue Committee (MID0061) para 22 Back

50   Q 18 Back

51   Q 140 Back

52   Ibid. Back

53   Q 141 Back

54   Save the Children (MID0043) para 2.10 Back

55   Ibid., para 2.8 Back

56   Q 81 Back

57   Q 149 Back

58   Q 79 Back

59   Q 82 Back

60   Q 145 Back

61   Save the Children (MID0043) para 2.7 Back

62   Q 145 Back

63   Save the Children (MID0043) para 2.9 Back

64   Q 79 Back

65   Norwegian Refugee Council (MID0059) para 2 Back

66   Q 77 Back

67   Q 143 Back

68   Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Final Draft National Resilience Plan 2014-2016 (May 2014) Back

69   World Bank, Lebanon: Economic and Social Impact Assessment of the Syrian Conflict, September 2013 Back

70   Q 70, Q 71 Back

71   Q 71 Back

72   Q 136 Back

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Prepared 2 July 2014