In Lebanon, 1.1 Million Syrian Refugees Are Now a Fifth of the Country’s Population

There are 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, with another 400,000 expected by the end of the year

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Syrian refugees cook outside a tent at the Majdal Anjar refugee camp in Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, September 9, 2013. JAMAL SAIDI/Reuters/Corbis

The civil war in Syria began in 2012, escalating from protests that started a year earlier. Now, the United Nations says there are nearly 3 million Syrian refugees looking for respite. These millions of people are overloading neighboring countries, says Sylvia Westall for Reuters

As many as 1.1 million Syrians have made their way to Lebanon, a small country sandwiched between Syria and the Mediterranean Sea, says Westall. Lebanon only has a population of 4 million, and such a huge influx of people is stressing Lebanon's economy:

[T]he influx of refugees fleeing Syria's civil war will have cost Lebanon's already fragile economy around $7.5 billion between 2012 and 2014. Border communities hosting Syrian refugees were under particular pressure because of the increase in people willing to work for low wages.

"Unemployment doubled, especially among unspecialized or unskilled labor in those mostly poor areas," he said, warning that the refugee crisis "threatens to take us to an economic, political and even security collapse."

No country—let alone one that already struggles to provide clean water and reliable power—can take a one-quarter jump in population without some serious growing pains. According to the United Nations, Lebanon needs $3.74 billion in donations to help all of the Syrians displaced by the continued fighting. That need is not being met by the international community, says John Heilprin for the Associated Press.

While millions of displaced people can create a difficult situation to handle, the real problem, of course, is the continued fighting in Syria.

As many as 100,000 Syrians are registering as refugees every month, says Heilprin. The United Nations expects the total number to grow to 3.6 million by the end of the year. But that's only counting the people who leave and the people who register. As Smart News has written previously, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are being deliberately starved and their access to medical supplies cut off, as part of military strategy.

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