Lebanon: the strain of living in informal tented settlements
Following the on-set of the Syrian crisis, the populations of the informal settlements in the Bekaa Valley have grown enormously.
The Bekaa Valley is one of the main agricultural areas of Lebanon. Located next to the Syrian border, it is roughly half way between Damascus and Beirut.
Historically it has attracted itinerant workers from the region who get seasonal farm jobs, like fruit-picking or planting.
For many years, the workers have lived in temporary tented settlements, adjacent to the agricultural land where they work.
Tenure agreements with the landlords are often unwritten and ad-hoc (hence the term ‘informal’).
Many Syrian refugees have been renting apartments or living with host-families.
However, as the number of refugees increases and families spend their savings, a growing number of them are choosing to live in informal tented settlements.
Many of the old settlements have tripled or quadrupled in size. Dozens of new informal settlements have started to appear.
It is believed that around 10,000 families are living in tents in Bekaa alone.
This number is highly likely to increase as the refugee population in Lebanon grows.
No running water
The size of each settlement varies from one to 250 families.
Many of the newcomers are not familiar with building and maintaining the tents.
The settlements are often crowded, dirty and extremely difficult places for children to live.
Most have minimal water and sanitation facilities. One had only one pit latrine for 40 families and no running water.
The typical tents are temporary timber frames covered with plastic, cardboard and old rugs.
They are small and are often shared by multiple families.
The overcrowding encourages the spread of infectious diseases and can create many protection issues.
What we are doing
Save the Children has been working to support some of the most vulnerable families obtain adequate shelter. This is a key component to their protection.
Our Shelter Team is currently distributing construction materials to more than 1,600 of the most vulnerable families.
Basic materials such as timber and plastic-sheeting allow the families to improve their living conditions by providing a more secure, private and weather-proof living space.
We are working with our partners to address the shortage of basic water and sanitation facilities.
We are due to open new Child Friendly Spaces to serve both refugee and local children.
However, there remains substantial work to be done.
Save the Children is continuing to work with the community groups, local authorities, partner-NGO’s and donors to identify further ways of supporting vulnerable families in the tented settlements.