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October 4, 2018

An Overview of Technology and Trends in Syrian Refugee Settlements in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon

Region/Country : Europe / Middle East

contributor: Helen Lindsay

Beginning in May of 2011, the Syrian Refugee Crisis has drawn the attention of the world. Syrian refugees fled their homes to neighboring countries including Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Within two years, one million Syrians sought refuge in another country. Now, over five million refugees have fled Syria for other countries and 1.5 million of them are living in Lebanon. Most of the refugees are living in informal tented settlements, which are dispersed throughout Lebanon. The majority of these settlements are in the Beqaa Valley, a region about an hour’s drive from the city of Beirut. This paper aims to provide an overview of technology trends in these settlements.Photo: A Day in the Settlements

Photo: A Day in the Settlements

 

The information presented here was gathered from two clusters of settlements just outside the town of Zahle (see map). Visits to these sites were conducted in January and July  of 2018 and were coordinated by the American University of Beirut Humanitarian Engineering Initiative and the Beyond Association. The information below was gathered through interviews with refugees and Beyond Association staff, as well as through observation of the settlements and surveys of refugee households.

 

Cooking and Heating

 

This 2 burner gas stove was being used for cooking in one tent. Other tents had similar gas burning stoves and propane tanks.

General NAF Stove

 

Table 1: Types of Stoves

Surveyed (Date, Location)Heating (gas stove)Heating (wood stove)Total
January 2018 Saadnayel (055, 085, 022)9211

 

Stoves like the one pictured at left are used for heating the tents in the winter. They are also occasionally used for cooking, when the household does not have a gas stove as pictured above. There are a number of challenges with these stoves. They are a burn hazard for small children, pose a large risk of fire in the vinyl tents, and need fuel to work. When families cannot afford to buy fuel (wood) they will often burn other items like shoes or plastic, increasing the risk of fire and the air pollution.

 

WASH – Water and Sanitation

 

Toilets: Turkish Toilets

 

The majority of tents have either a bathroom or an outhouse. Some of the tents share the outhouse with one other tent (each tent houses 5-12 people). Table 2 shows that only half the households surveyed have an indoor toilet. The toilets are connected either to a septic tank or camp wide sewer system.

 

Table 3: Prevalence of Indoor and Outdoor Toilets

Surveyed (Date, Location)OuthouseIndoor toiletNo AnswerTotal
January 2018 Saadnayel (055, 085, 022)26311
July 2018 Saadnayel1113
Totals37414

 

Table 3: Types of Sewage Disposal by Household

Surveyed (Date, Location)SewerSeptic tankNo AnswerOtherTotal
January 2018 Saadnayel (055, 085, 022)911011
July 2018 Saadnayel12025

 

Other: Open sewage pit

 

Table 4: Types of Sewers in Six Different Camps

Saadnayel January 2018Sewer Type?Well contaminated by sewage?
Camp 022toilet/outhouse waste goes underground to riveryes
Camp 072Septic tanks, flooding commonunknown
085 Kaabahunderground sewer which feeds into river – untreatedunknown
Camp 055unknownyes
July 2018
Camp AOpenYes
Camp BShared sewer pitsYes

 

Water Sanitation

We surveyed households about how they cleaned their water. This water was brought in by trucks and was either donated by NGOs or purchased by the refugees. Different families used the water for drinking and cooking; some only for bathing and/or cleaning. Families purchased bottled water to drink if they had the money.

 

Table 5: Methods of Cleaning Water in Households

Surveyed (Date, Location)Chlorine TabletsDidn’t CleanNo AnswerOtherTotal
January 2018 Saadnayel (055, 085, 022)460111
July 2018 Saadnayel23229

 

“Other” Answers from January: “Other” Answers from July:

Salt (1) Cleaning method not stated (1)

Dettol (1) Filtering out the sand (1)

 

Electricity and Connectivity

Electricity

Cosmostar Voltage Regulator: One woman was using this to power the appliances in her kitchen. (Primarily her fridge). Likely to protect from surges during daily power outages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solarway World Vision Lamp: One family had this in their tent to use when the power went out. The benefits of this is that it is much safer than using candle light. The target region for Solarway’s products is Africa, however this lamp could potentially be very helpful for more homes to have, especially in fire prevention efforts.

 

Payment for electricity happens differently in each settlement. In the Kaabah camps the government provides electricity and the bill is divided between the tents. In some places the landowner is the one who provides the electricity. Similar cost sharing systems are used to pay for Wi-Fi.

 

 

 

 

Table 6: Presence of Electricity and Wifi in Settlements

Survey Date & CampGrid Electricity?Wifi?
085 Kaabah (01/18)YesYes
022 (01/18)UnknownNo
072 (01/18)UnknownYes
055 (01/18)YesUnknown
Camp A (07/18)YesYes
Camp B (07/18)YesUnknown

 

Connectivity – Phones

Smart phones are fairly common among the refugee families. Most households have at least one. Often the phones go with the male head of household or working male family member when he goes out as a day laborer. Sometimes when there is no male head of household, or when there are multiple phones, the mother will have one with her.

 

They use the phones to get messages about their UNICEF money, for WhatsApp, and calls. It was also observed that some parents will let kids play games on the phone.

 

 

Table 7: Average Number of Phones per Household as told by the Camp Leader

Saadnayel January 2018Average Number of Phones per household
085 Kaabah1
0221
0721-2
055Unknown

 

Table 8: Number of phones per Family

Saadnayel July 2018Number of people in the HouseholdNumber of Phones
Family 193
Family 251
Family 391
Family 4Unknown1
Family 5Unknown1

 

                                  

Health

Maternal Health Practices:

From January 2018 interviews with refugee women:

One interviewee went to the primary healthcare center monthly (funded by the government). It is typical to give birth in a hospital for those who are registered with the UNHCR -75% cost covered by UNHCR. Many cannot afford prenatal care from doctors.

 

From a July 2018 interview with the Director of Medical Interventions at Beyond Association:

“For maternal healthcare people either go to PHCs or private doctors. Actually we have a problem with this sector in Lebanon, especially with the Syrians. They are supposed to go 5 times but it is expensive so they end up going once or maybe not at all, so since they don’t have any money they go and ask the oldest woman in the IS (they consider her a midwife but she is not trained at all) and she gives them advice for the duration of the nine months.”

 

Other Health Issues:

Other major health complaints in the camps are: asthma/bronchitis (from dust and smoke inhalation from both cigarettes and stoves), skin rashes (from contaminated water), diarrhea (from food and water), back pain (varying causes), chronic illnesses which refugees had before coming to Lebanon that now go untreated (including: heart disease, diabetes, & developmental disorders)

While most refugees have access to clinics or pharmacies, the care is very expensive and they often cannot afford to get treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: An Old Woman walks to her tent leaning on a cane

 

Other Technology:

 

Parafire Fire Extinguishers: These were being delivered the day I visited by Save the Children. It is unclear who will implement and place the fire extinguishers, but from interviews with refugees in January, fire is one of their biggest safety concerns, especially during the winter. In our survey in January 2018, we found that in Saadnayel camp 055, there was only one fire extinguisher for every 3-4 tents and users were not always trained. This seems to be a theme as other camps mentioned that only the Shawiche (gatekeeper/leader) had a fire extinguisher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

In general, use of technology is similar across the camps, but varies based on the financial situation of the household and whether any members are able to work. While some technologies are very commonly used, such as smartphones, others are rare. Almost every product the refugees have they had to purchase, and oftentimes these devices are second hand. There are some technology for development solutions being used (such as the Solarway lamp), but most technologies are not designed for or suited to this situation. The Beyond Association developed their own app for data management for their children’s vaccine program. This has been a very effective tool and others want to use it or replicate it. There is a need for appropriate technologies that are designed with the user in mind. A few of the refugees interviewed have developed their own solutions to daily problems, but all expressed a desire for new solutions, and were ready to embrace new technologies and systems that were appropriately designed and cost effective.

Helen Lindsay

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