They are everywhere in Lebanon - 1 million Syrian refugees, in a land of 4.8 million people. There are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Instead, most rent apartments and others live in makeshift shelters and in garages, factories and prisons. Three years after the Syria crisis began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. It's struggling to keep pace with the influx. Rents have spiked, accommodation is scarce; food prices are rising. Meanwhile, a generation could be lost. Half of Syria's refugees are children; most don't go to school. Instead many of them work to help their families survive. Some marry early, others must beg to make a bit of money. Yet they share the same dream of getting an education.
In the northern city of Tripoli, many of the Syrians live in Al Tanak district, dubbed "Tin City." Long home to poor locals, it is now a surreal suburb - garbage piled to one side, a Ferris wheel on the other. The inhabitants share their dwellings with rats. "They're as big as cats," said one. "They're not scared of us, we're scared of them."
Award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario visited Tin City and other areas of Lebanon with UNHCR to show the faces and suffering of Syrians to the world. Addario, in publications such as The New York Times and National Geographic, has highlighted the victims of conflict and rights abuse around the world, particularly women.
Mahmoud,15, hasn't been to school in 3 years. In his native Syria, his parents were afraid to send him because of the civil war. They ended up fleeing a year ago when, in the early morning hours, a bomb fell on a nearby house. The family, still groggy from being jolted awake, grabbed what they could and fled to Lebanon. Their home and the local school have since been destroyed.
In Lebanon, Mahmoud's father is unable to find work and now the family can barely afford rent.
A month ago, Mahmoud started working for tips cleaning fish at a small shop next to his home. He makes about $60 USD a month. With this money he helps pay rent on his family's tiny underground room, shared between his parents and eight brothers and sisters. Mahmoud is proud to help his family but with the fish shop located in the same subterranean structure as his home, he barely goes out into the sunshine.
Children like Mahmoud, some as young as seven, often work long hours for little pay, and in some cases in dangerous conditions. These children forfeit their future by missing out on an education and the carefree years of childhood. Many are also traumatized by what they witnessed back in Syria.
UNHCR and its partners together with local governments are providing financial assistance to help vulnerable Syrian refugee families cover expenses like rent and medical care, which means there is less need to pull children out of school and put them to work. UN agencies and their partners have also established case management and referral systems in Jordan and Lebanon to identify children at risk and refer them to the appropriate services.
Fresh fighting in Syria has driven thousands of refugees across the border into eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley over the past week. An estimated 6,000 people were forced from their homes by the fighting around Qarah and the Qalamoun region of western Syria. The desperate civilians crossed the mountains and made their way to the town of Arsal in Lebanon. Most of the refugees were already internally displaced in Syria, some as many as half a dozen times, before finally being forced out of the country. Some 80 per cent of the new arrivals were originally from the Syrian city of Homs. The refugees are arriving in a desolate and impoverished part of Lebanon that has seen its peacetime population grow by 50 per cent since the Syria crisis began in March 2011. Harsh early winter conditions are making matters worse. UNHCR and its partners have found temporary shelter in Arsal for the new arrivals in a wedding hall and a mosque. They are handing out blankets, food packages as well as kitchen and hygiene sets. A new transit site is also being built until better shelter can be found elsewhere in the country. The following images were taken in Arsal by Marc Hofer.