Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)

Gender Identity, Health and Barriers to Access for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon’s Northern Regions

Across the last decade, upward of 1.5 million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon in seek of refuge and protection from Syria’s ongoing conflict. With a total population of close to six million people (including the refugee community), Lebanon presently hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. Lebanon’s population has grown substantially since this mass influx (by more than 40%), a drastic increase that has placed significant pressure on the country’s institutions and health facilities. The said facilities are already compromised due to the prolonged intersectional national crises exacerbated by the ongoing economic and financial crisis, the aftermath of COVID-19, and the ongoing socio-political implications of the Beirut Port explosion. As Lebanon resumes its status as a “country of transit” as opposed to a country of asylum for refugees, the dispossessed remain in legal limbo. The Lebanese government’s response to the influx continues to be a series of patchwork legislation and ad hoc policies – even more recently amid conversations on Syrian refugees’ safe return. In this climate, refugeehood, gender, and health remain at a sensitive and overlooked intersection within larger migration narratives and discourse – particularly within larger debates on refugee rights and their access to health services. Among marginalized refugee communities, this intersection poses particularly dire consequences on the physical, mental, and psychological health of gender minorities and women within the refugee community. The research aims to explore how gender identity has impacted access to healthcare services for the Syrian refugee community since 2019 – with a specific focus on women and members of the LGBTIQ+ community. More specifically, the research will explore how the country’s ongoing economic and financial crisis has impacted the health sector, as well as the provision of health services to the refugee community in general, particularly in increasingly vulnerable regions in North Lebanon. The study focuses on the regions of Tripoli and Akkar – a selection rooted in the demographic compositions of these regions as two of the most refugee-dense in Lebanon, as well as their social and political significance. Since the Lebanese Civil War, Tripoli and Akkar have become massively de-industrialized, and most investments are directed towards Beirut. This has significantly impacted the provision of services and access, particularly in the areas of access to healthcare for the region’s host community and its incoming refugee population.