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Syria refugees in Lebanon drowning in poverty, says Oxfam

21 november 2013, 16:00
Desperate Syrian refugee families in Lebanon are slipping further into debt and poverty, affecting their children's education and their dignity, AFP reports according to an international aid agency.

"Refugees from Syria face a daily battle to survive in a country where jobs and affordable accommodation are scarce. The perpetual hunt for work is crushing people's hope," said Nigel Timmins, who heads up Oxfam's Syria response from Beirut.

"One of the most tragic aspects of the refugees' predicament in Lebanon is the plight of the children's future. The survey found that only 25 per cent of children are enrolled in schools, pointing to a generation of Syrian children missing out on a much-needed education," it added.

Oxfam's statement accompanies a new survey of 1,500 refugee families in Lebanon, which was commissioned by the agency and conducted by the Beirut Research and Innovation Centre.

According to the study, "families are spiralling deeper and deeper into debt, living in cramped and overcrowded accommodation, with few job prospects," Oxfam said.

It also "shows people are spending more than twice what they're earning - monthly incomes for refugee families is around $250 but average expenditure is around $520 including monthly costs such as rent ($225) and food (up to $275)."

Lebanon hosts more than 800,000 Syrians forced to flee the brutal war that has raged in their country for two and a half years, killing more than 120,000 people.

While Lebanese public schools are free, many parents cannot afford additional costs such as transport, and are therefore unable to give their children an education.

Competition for jobs is tough in Lebanon, whose economy is already racked by unemployment.

The country is also far more expensive than Syria, and refugee families who have fled to Lebanon with an average of just $370 savings quickly run out of cash.

According to Oxfam, every working person supports at least five people in addition to themselves, with "every cent they earn... stretched to its limit."

Hadir Jasem, 21, fled with her family to Lebanon two years ago.

She is "desperate to get back to her home in Syria and start university, but she is now the sole breadwinner for her family of 13, earning $200 a month as a teacher's assistant," said Oxfam.

"Things here are much, much more expensive," she said. "Going back to university requires money, if I do that, then there wouldn't be enough money for us to survive."

With the humanitarian response just 61 percent funded, according to Oxfam, there is a need for "a massive injection of funds."

Otherwise, "Syrian refugees face the prospect of a life of grinding poverty ahead, surviving on borrowed cash and credit alone."

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