Responding to a Refugee Influx: Lessons from Lebanon
Between 2011 and 2015, Lebanon received over one million Syrian refugees. There is no country in the world that has taken in as many refugees in proportion to its size: by 2015, one in four of its residents was a refugee from Syria. Already beset, prior to the Syrian crisis, by political divisions, insecure borders, severely strained infrastructure, and over-stretched public services, the mass influx of refugees further taxed the country. That Lebanon withstood what is often characterized as an existential threat is primarily due to the remarkable resilience of the Lebanese people. It is also due to the unprecedented levels of humanitarian funding that the international community provided to support refugees and the communities that hosted them. UN, international, and national partners scaled up more than a hundred-fold to meet ever-burgeoning needs and creatively endeavored to meet challenges on the ground. And while the refugee response was not perfect, and funding fell well below needs, thousands of lives were saved, protection was extended, essential services were provided, and efforts were made to improve through education the future prospects of the close to half-a-million refugee children residing in Lebanon. This paper examines what worked well and where the refugee response stumbled, focusing on areas where improved efforts in planning, delivery, coordination, innovation, funding, and partnerships can enhance future emergency responses.