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UN: Three-quarters of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Live Below Poverty Line

FILE - Syrian women prepare food for their family outside their tents, at a Syrian refugee camp in the town of Bar Elias, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, March 29, 2016.

A survey by three leading U.N. agencies - the U.N. refugee agency, U.N. Children’s Fund and World Food Program - finds that more than three-quarters of the more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living below the poverty line of less than $4 per day.

After nearly seven years of war, the U.N. survey finds Syrian refugees in Lebanon are poorer and finding it ever more difficult to make ends meet. It also shows refugee households on average spend $98 per person per month. Nearly half that sum goes toward food.

The U.N. agencies that conducted the survey report most of the refugees need to borrow money for food, to cover health expenses and pay rent. It says almost nine out of every 10 refugees end up in debt.

U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler says that makes refugees vulnerable.

“Obtaining legal residency continues to be a challenge, leaving refugees exposed to an increased risk of arrest, hindering their ability to register their marriages and making it more difficult for them to find daily labor, send their children to school or access health care,” Spindler said.

Spindler told VOA the precarious situation facing Syrian refugees is pushing them into adopting negative coping mechanisms, such as early marriage and child labor.

“Many families cannot afford to make ends meet without the support of the wages earned by children. One thing that is particularly worrying is the fact that some employers prefer to hire children because they pay them lower wages than adults,” he said.

Spindler said the impoverished Syrian refugees in Lebanon are increasingly dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. Unfortunately, he said, aid agencies are suffering from a serious funding shortfall. He noted that $2.7 billion is required to meet humanitarian needs in Lebanon this year.