This report was commissioned by the UNDP project “Improving Living Conditions in Palestinian Gatherings Host Communities” to the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), in order to assess living conditions and vulnerabilities in Palestinian gatherings in Lebanon, in terms of housing and basic services, access to social services (education and health), income generating opportunities (employment and other forms of income), and safety and mobility conditions.

The report also constructs an aggregate of vulnerabilities, by summarizing all vulnerabilities in one index, which provides a useful tool for humanitarian actors to visually rank and categorize different Palestinian gatherings in terms of vulnerabilities and identify most vulnerable sectors in each gathering. Moving beyond basic needs assessments, the report sheds light on the means that inhabitants of Palestinian Gatherings adopt to secure services and jobs. It also focuses on the living conditions of youth, their transition to adulthood, and the main challenges they face.

Results are based on a household survey of 2,000 households (comprising 8,898 residents) in Palestinian gatherings that was conducted by Statistics Lebanon from July to August 2017

Palestinian Gatherings were first identified by FAFO (2003) as informal areas outside the formal Palestinian refugee camps that constitute relatively homogeneous refugee communities of a minimum of 25 households exhibiting humanitarian needs. Under this definition, 42 informal gatherings were identified across Lebanon. In 2017 the census in Palestinian Camps and Gatherings published by the Lebanese – Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) identified a total of 154 gatherings by dropping the number of minimum households to 15. According to the Census, 55% of Palestinian refugees live in the gatherings. This report presents findings of data collected in the before, mentioned 42 Palestinian Gatherings, which hosts more than half of the overall population in all Palestinian Gatherings in Lebanon.

According to the most recent census of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (LPDC, 2017) and UNRWA Figures on Palestinian Refugees from Syria (PRS) in the gatherings, the total population in the gatherings is estimated at 117,000, the majority of whom are Palestinian Refugees from Lebanon (PRO). While these refugees are registered with UNRWA and/or the Lebanese Government, their place of settlement, unlike camps, is not officially recognized. This has a number of implications on refugees’ living conditions, starting with their tenure security and access to basic urban services, mainly WASH, as well as the state of the physical environment and housing conditions. While municipalities generally retract from extending development plans or providing services in these informal gatherings, UNRWA’s mandate to provide basic urban services (WASH, shelter, upgrading) is restricted to the borders of the twelve recognized Palestinian Refugee camps.

This chapter presents a summary of the main findings of the survey, along with recommendations that address the most significant needs and challenges, in relation to:

  • Demographics Housing
  • Education Health
  • Labor Income
  • Safety & Mobility Youth
  • Mapping of Vulnerabilities in Palestinian Gatherings


Households in Palestinian Gatherings exhibit different degrees of tenure, with more than half of the population considering themselves owners of a property. In 2001, the Lebanese Parliament amended the Property Law to prohibit Palestinian refugees From owning or passing property through inheritance in Lebanon. Therefore, there is no Full ownership of housing among the Palestinian population in the gatherings, reducing housing security For the majority of population in the gatherings. Efforts to improve housing security for Palestinian households in the gatherings should be pursued at national and local levels.

Previous studies have highlighted the poor housing conditions in Palestinian areas and, in particular, outside the camps. Despite the donor community’s support For activities that aid refugees From Syria, Funds to upgrade living conditions in Palestinian gatherings hosting refugees remain more limited. As evident in the Findings of this report as well as in previous reports, shelter upgrading is still greatly needed in Palestinian Gatherings.

Shelter rehabilitation:

In spite of efforts from international and domestic humanitarian agencies, housing conditions in the gatherings are still poor. 11% of households live in shelters with poor material tin roofs, mostly in the South. Furthermore, 35% of shelters suffer from dampness, in particular in Beirut gatherings. Therefore, there is still a need to target those living in the most vulnerable housing conditions with additional shelter rehabilitation programs.

Policy dialogue to improve land tenure:

Land tenure insecurity is one of the most deeply rooted vulnerabilities of Palestinians in Lebanon. As such, it affects the vast majority of dwellers in Palestinian gatherings (i.e. Palestinian Refugees). This report shows that the degree of land tenure has a significant impact on the ability to find employment opportunities and generate self-sustainable income. Therefore, it seems particularly relevant to pursue a constructive dialogue at different levels: (i) at the local level, entailing communication with municipalities and private owners to improve conditions and reduce eviction threats; and (ii) at the national level, by advocating for laws that provide further housing stability in the gatherings.


Education levels in Palestinian gatherings have improved in past decades, with younger generations having significantly higher rates of participation in high school and university. However, the high rate of teenage dropouts is primarily driven by the need to contribute to family income and the lack of motivation given the negative prospects of Finding higher-skill job opportunities.

In this context, the most effective policies to improve enrollment rates are providing link to the labor market and creating a pool of higher-skill job opportunities For youth. Supply-centered policies to increase the availability of schools could be more effective in rural areas compared to urban centers. Other education projects can also help improve education outcomes:

Successful role models:

Considering that a main reason for school repetition and dropout cases is lack of motivation given the lack of job opportunities, mentoring programs could be piloted, inspiring students at schools by sharing journeys of successful young Palestinians who managed to find higher-skill formal jobs or start their own businesses (through motivational talks, job shadowing and mentorship). International evidence on migrants has shown positive educational outcomes derived from this type of programs.

School transportation:

Although most school barriers are demand driven, households in gatherings cite lack of affordability as a significant factor in their decision not to enroll a child. As UNRWA schools are more available in gatherings adjacent to camps, affordability is a greater challenge in non-adjacent gatherings. Therefore, providing students living in relatively distant gatherings with transportation to UNRWA schools might increase enrollment rates.


In spite of the large presence of UNRWA health services, access to health care is still problematic For a significant portion of the population in Palestinian gatherings, given that UNRWA only Fully covers primary health care, while refugees must partially pay For secondary and tertiary health care. The average Family spends more than $400 per year on health; a very high amount given their limited income. In this area, the main needed interventions are:

Increasing coverage:

NGOs and other key actors whose work focuses on gatherings can channel their resources toward increasing coverage of secondary or tertiary treatments not covered by UNRWA services, in particular for people with long-term diseases.

Advocacy campaigns to include Palestinian workers in the NSSF: Palestinian workers, even those formally hired and complying with tax contributions do not have the right to benefit from Lebanon’s public insurance scheme (National Social Security Fund, NSSF). Advocacy efforts could unlock an opportunity for this group to gain access to public health insurance.


Legal restrictions on employment are a primary obstacle to the integration of refugees in Palestinian gatherings into the labor market. This not only reduces employment rates, but also limits opportunities to working in more vulnerable, low-skill, informal jobs. Given this situation, several recommendations are proposed:

Resources For entrepreneurs:

About 16 % of workers in gatherings are self-employed. However, self-employment is in many circumstances a consequence of the lack of other job opportunities. Most entrepreneurs open small stores in the retail sector. In many instances, entrepreneurs have limited knowledge and resources to run and scale-up their businesses. In particular, they might Face barriers in accessing financial loans or navigating the regulatory environment. “One-stop shop” business development centers with specialized agents could provide entrepreneurs with the necessary information, counseling, resources, business skills, and connections to improve their business, which could in turn increase job creation in gatherings.

Advocacy campaigns For reFugees’ right to legally work and access social protection:

Negotiations with the Ministry of Labor and other key stakeholders are needed, focusing on promoting the right of Palestinian refugees to work and benefit of social protection under the NSSF. It is imperative that efforts be made to Foster awareness about the benefits of formalizing part of the informal economy. In order to reduce possible fears of naturalization, awareness campaigns should dissociate naturalization and improvements of labor conditions of Palestinians.

Building Professional networks with companies:

There is scope to work within legal constraints to improve labor outcomes in gatherings. One barrier is the detachment or mismatch of information between job opportunities and residents in gatherings, the latter being usually circumscribed by the extent of their informal social networks. Beyond the circles of specific low-skill sectors such as construction, retail sales, or daily laborers in farming—where they have more connections—it is important to expand employment options to other sectors with a higher propensity to provide more formal and less vulnerable jobs, while adhering to all legal provisions that apply to Palestinian refugees (for example in manufacturing). Programs could establish centers or platforms that act as intermediaries, linking populations in gatherings—in particular more educated and higher-skilled residents—with potential firms that have higher demand for mid-skilled to high-skilled labor. This can promote an increase in job quality and formality that, as a Further benefit, provides health insurance, mitigating the main challenge of health affordability in gatherings.


Youth in Palestinian gatherings are increasingly educated, but Fail to successfully transition to the labor market, which is characterized by high unemployment rates and more vulnerable employment. The main barriers that youth Face in the labor market are associated with their lower social connections, reduced information on job opportunities, and some mismatches between their skills and demands of job market. All these barriers reduce the availability of jobs For youth. In this context, programs to integrate youth in the labor market entail connecting them with job opportunities and informing them about what the labor market demands:

Rethinking vocational training programs:

The majority of existing vocational programs, which are currently designed as short courses tackling similar limited subjects, fail to provide more job opportunities or higher earnings for inhabitants of Palestinian gatherings, casting doubts about their suitability as successful livelihood programs. This has also been observed in previous studies on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (ILO 2015). However, these programs still have the potential to improve the income generating ability of the population, if they succeed in linking students with companies and provide the skills relevant to what firms or the job market demand. Firstly, vocational programs must better reflect areas and skills that are in greater demand in the labor market. For that, previous regional labor market analysis is needed. For example, the ILO (2015) observes a need for mechanics and electro-mechanic skills in many industries in North Lebanon, as well as quality control workers in the agro-business sector. The success of vocational training programs also depends on the capacity to provide information to students about economic opportunities beyond their narrow circle of networks in addition to providing companies with information about the qualification of trainees participating in these programs. This can be done by incorporating internships as part of the curriculum, allowing employees to learn about how well potential candidates perform without incurring significant costs.\

Engaging youth that are NEET:

40% of 24-year-old males and 80% of females of the same age are NEET. These circumstances, coupled with a lack of better future prospects, disenfranchisement, and a lack of voice lead youth to resort to risky behaviors such as drugs (CLS and UNICEF 2017), a main concern for half of the households in the gatherings. Apart from a lack of engagement in the productive economy, youth barely spend time engaged in sports, cultural activities, or volunteering. Investing in cultural or recreational activities for youth—in particular those who are classified as NEET—might help engage them in productive endeavors, can give them more voice, and could keep them more active and separated from risky activities. Broader investment in public spaces can also improve households’ concerns about insecurity, which is partly driven by deteriorated physical environments.


This section develops a comparative index of vulnerabilities that—taking into consideration its set of assumptions and simplifications—can be used by humanitarian actors as a comparative tool to rank different Palestinian gatherings in terms of levels of vulnerabilities across different sectors. The Index of Vulnerability is constructed from six sub-indices for each of the sectors vulnerabilities. The color coded system was derived from a scoring system, as explained of vulnerabilities analyzed in this report: housing, education, health, labor, income, and safety and mobility. For the methodology for the construction of the index, refer to Annex 2 at the end of the report. Table 1, on the following page, presents the results of the index of vulnerability of each of clusters of gatherings and each of its components. Table 1 shows the degrees of vulnerabilities in the gatherings in ascending order, with darker colors representing higher in Annex 2.

Differences in vulnerabilities are not determined by the region in which a gathering is located, as most of the variations are observed within regions and not between regions. According to the index, the highest overall vulnerabilities are observed in Sekke adjacent to Ain el Hilweh Camp in Saida, the Adjacent Areas of the Beddawi Camp in the North, and Jal el Bahr gathering in Tyre.

Vulnerabilities across sectors are somewhat connected, although far from perfectly correlated. Gatherings that display higher vulnerabilities in one sector also tend to have more vulnerabilities in other sectors. However, many gatherings stand out as having some of the greatest vulnerabilities in some sectors but not others.

At the aggregate level, correlations between the six different sectors show generally moderate linkages between different types of vulnerabilities, with the highest correlation of 0.6 between housing conditions and the education component (while most are between 0.2 and 0.4, and in some cases even negative correlation). Other higher correlations are between education and safety and mobility (0.59), and between income and labor or education (0.48 and 0.49 respectively). Correlations do not imply causation nor determine in which direction the relation goes. For example, between education and income, it is possible that higher income households have more financial space to spend more money on education, and also that those with higher levels of education are more likely to find better job opportunities and increase their income. Overall, moderate correlations suggest that interventions should be tailored and targeted in each gathering to the most striking needs, as not all gatherings face the same vulnerabilities.

Dividing gatherings by type of historical land ownership and formation, it is evident that gatherings settled (mostly illegally) on public land have some of the highest vulnerabilities in all dimensions. Gatherings formed on private land have lower levels of vulnerabilities.

Interestingly, gatherings where most Palestinian households acquired land based on the earlier Property Law fare better in housing conditions, education, health, and safety and mobility, but worse in terms of income. In turn, in gatherings where land is mostly privately owned by Lebanese, labor opportunities and income are higher, while they present more vulnerabilities in social services (education and health) as well as safety and mobility.

For further details, refer to Table 55 in Annex 2 at the end of the report.


The results of the household survey on living conditions in Palestinian gatherings in Lebanon show high vulnerabilities among Palestinian gathering populations in terms of housing conditions and basic services, access to social services (education, health), income generating opportunities (employment and income), and safety and mobility.

Vulnerabilities apply to all nationalities living in gatherings. Vulnerabilities do not have clear regional patterns, as they are largely specific to a certain gathering, with some of the gatherings suffering From vulnerabilities in particular sectors but not others. In light of this Finding, and given limited aid resources, it is essential to design sectoral projects targeting gatherings and households based on relative degrees of vulnerabilities and not on region, in line with the recommendations presented so Far in the different sections.

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