Voices of the vulnerable: Exploring the livelihood strategies, coping mechanisms and their impact on food insecurity, health and access to health care among Syrian refugees in the Beqaa region of Lebanon
Lebanon has approximately one million Syrian refugees (SR) registered with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and an unknown number of unregistered SR, who cannot benefit from formal assistance. This study aimed to examine the livelihoods, coping strategies, and access to healthcare among SR based on registration status and accompanying formal assistance. A mixed-method approach with more emphasis on the qualitative design was adopted. A purposive convenient sampling
... nt sampling approach was used to recruit SR from informal tented settlements (ITS) in the Beqaa region in Lebanon. Data collection included 19 focus group discussions (FGDs) that were conducted with participants, who were further divided into three groups: registered refugees with assistance, registered without assistance and unregistered. Twelve in-depth interviews were conducted with key informants from humanitarian organizations. All interviews and FGDs were audio recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed. SR were highly dependent on formal assistance when received, albeit being insufficient. Regardless of registration status, refugees resorted to informal livelihood strategies, including informal employment, child labor, early marriage, and accruing debt. Poor living conditions and food insecurity were reported among all SR. Limited healthcare access and high out-of-pocket costs led to limited use of antenatal care services, prioritizing life-threatening conditions, and resorting to alternative sources of healthcare. Severity of these conditions and their adverse health consequences were especially pronounced among unregistered refugees. Our findings shed light on the economic and health disparities among marginalized SR, with the lack of registration and formal assistance increasing their vulnerability. More tailored and sustainable humanitarian programs are needed to target the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups.