[Published here March 18, 2015]
Perhaps the first thing refugees fleeing a war zone need is medical attention. It is no surprise, then, that Lebanese hospitals have been busier than usual since war engulfed Syria in 2012. According to a recent UNDP study, in fact, in 2014, humanitarian aid inflows focused on Syrian refugees have spurred 1.76 percent in additional growth for the healthcare sector, according to a UNDP study. That year, UN agencies and affiliates supported 180 primary healthcare centers and 65 hospitals throughout Lebanon. With a swell of new patients, particularly in 2013, hospitals have experienced positive growth and have consequently invested in their infrastructure and service provision.
[Published here on March 11, 2014]
The unprecedented rate at which the number of Syrian refugees in the region has grown has caught the world’s attention. After nearly four years of unrest, roughly 1.17 million Syrians are currently registered as refugees in Lebanon — and the number continues to creep up. But an often underreported and misunderstood figure is the number of those who have had their refugee status deactivated. During 2013 and 2014, at least 137,000 Syrians lost active refugee status with UNHCR, the agency managing the international response to the refugee crisis. Vague and noncommittal statements to the press by UNHCR, coupled with sudden and at times brash government announcements on the topic, have added to the confusion. With growing government involvement in registration and deactivation, human rights agencies have expressed concern that Syrian refugees will not continue receiving appropriate protection in Lebanon.
[Published here on January 29, 2015] After decades of a relatively open border policy with its eastern neighbor, the beginning of 2015 saw Lebanon take unprecedented steps to monitor the entry and residency of Syrian nationals. Spearheaded by the ministries of interior and social affairs, the policies are an attempt to regulate the nearly 1.2 million Syrians already in Lebanon — as well as others seeking entry in the future.
The first of these measures came in the form of new visa requirements for Syrians and went into effect on January 5, 2015. Despite political pushback and concerns by human rights groups, Lebanese authorities insist this new policy is only the beginning.
[Published here on November 3, 2014]
In recent years, a hard earned record for security and stability had gained the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq a reputation as a booming business center. Headlines splashed across magazines and newspapers comparing the growth of Erbil, the Kurdish region’s capital, to Dubai’s meteoric expansion. However, the summer of 2014 challenged that idea as a new phase of turbulence gripped the whole country. The onslaught of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, who have taken control of large swathes of the country and carved a bloody path towards Erbil and Baghdad, was a stark reminder to all that Kurdistan is not immune to trouble in the neighborhood. But like the glittering hyperbole surrounding the rise of Erbil, the doom and gloom painted since the rise of ISIS may also be overstated. The situation is far from stable, but investors, analysts and business people focusing on the area say it won’t push them out, and it certainly won’t derail Kurdish development.
Debris and filth litter the camp’s water supplies
[Published originally here]
In an informal tented settlement just outside of Zahle, dozens of Syrian refugee women and girls crowd around faucets pumping water out of a large plastic tank. The “UN truck,” as they call it, has just filled their settlement’s communal tank with thousands of liters of water, and they rush to collect their share before it’s gone. After filling their buckets and bottles, they return, water sloshing, to their tents to drink, cook and clean.
A Lebanese refugee who had been living in Syria. Image by James Haines-Young
[Published here June 5, 2014]
Halima Zaroubi, a frail 80-something-year-old woman, breaks into tears when describing what’s happened to her home. “Our houses are gone, our lands have dried up,” her voice cracks. “Everything’s gone.” Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, millions of people have been forced from their homes. However, Syrians are not alone in having to escape the country’s overwhelming violence. Lebanese by birth and by nationality, Zaroubi had been living in Qusayr, a border town in Syria’s Damascus province, for 60 years. Like tens of thousands of other Lebanese who lived and worked in Syria for decades, Zaroubi and her family were forced to leave and settle back in their native country. But rather than settling back into their native land as citizens, they now live like refugees in their own country.