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Poverty Rising Among Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Syrian refugees wait to board a Jordanian army vehicle after crossing into Jordanian territory with their families, in al-Ruqban border area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, 240 km (149 miles) miles) east of Amman, Sept. 10, 2015.

FILE - Syrian refugees wait to board a Jordanian army vehicle after crossing into Jordanian territory with their families, in al-Ruqban border area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, 240 km (149 miles) miles) east of Amman, Sept. 10, 2015.

A report finds poverty is rising among Syrian refugees living in neighboring countries. A survey carried out by the U.N. refugee agency in five host countries shows Syrian refugees are finding it increasingly more difficult to make ends meet.

The report finds significant progress has been made in providing assistance to millions of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. But, despite some definite accomplishments, it says poverty continues to grow and refugee communities in host countries have difficulty accessing basic services.

Syria is into its sixth year of conflict. Nearly five million Syrians have taken refuge in those five countries. Turkey alone is sheltering 2.7 million Syrian refugees. Though the international community has increased its contributions for Syrian relief, the U.N. refugee agency says that remains far from enough.

UNHCR spokesman Leo Dobbs says living conditions everywhere are becoming more difficult for the refugees. In Lebanon, for example, he says the average debt held by refugee households has increased in the first quarter of this year.

“The number living below the poverty level has risen to 70 percent compared to 50 percent two years ago," he said. "In Jordan also there is a similar pattern. Ninety percent of registered Syrian refugees in urban areas are below the national poverty line, while over 67 percent are living in debt. In Egypt, some 62,000 refugees are living in poverty.”

Dobbs tells VOA the Syrian crisis has been going on for such a long time that people are running out of resources, opening them up to exploitation and protection risks associated with increasing poverty.

“It is a disturbing development," he said. "Also, with impoverishment comes the danger of people becoming more vulnerable and they are susceptible to negative coping mechanisms… Children going out to work, people being forced into commercial sex work. Those are some of them.”

The UNHCR says much more money is needed to prevent more Syrian refugees from becoming impoverished. The report says less than one-third, or $1.38 billion of the $4.55 billion requested by the U.N., inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations early this year, has been received.

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