Lebanon News

Agencies refute reports of 300,000 pregnant Syrian refugees

In this Monday, March 16, 2015 photo, pregnant Syrian refugee Wadhah Hamada, 22, poses for a portrait inside her tent at an informal settlement near the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Mafraq, Jordan. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

BEIRUT: Recent media reports that there are 300,000 Syrian refugee woman currently pregnant in Lebanon has been contested by international agencies that argue the figure is not reflective of data collected since the onset of the Syrian crisis. Several local media outlets reported earlier in the week that “out of 1.9 million Syrian refugees present in Lebanon ... there are 300,000 pregnant Syrian women that will give birth in 2017.” The outlet did not provide a source for the information, raising questions as to its credibility.

“We’re not quite sure about the source used in the report, but our records show that since the beginning of the crisis in 2011 there have been a total of about 100,000 Syrian newborns in Lebanon,” Khaled Kabbara, spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, told the Daily Star.

Mounia Amrani, Medical Coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres, also challenged the figure. She said such a number was impossible based upon MSF’s data and work with Syrian women.

“The number is exaggerated and really strange. We can expect an estimated number of about 80,000 [pregnant women] maximum,” she told The Daily Star. “The Syrian women that come to us for aid often request and use methods of family planning. So the fact that these figures are so high doesn’t make sense with practices we see at MSF,” Amrani added.

Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merehbi dismissed the media reports’ claims, saying he thought that such false information was part of an anti-Syrian refugee agenda in Lebanon.

“The maximum growth rate is maybe about 4 or 5 percent in some countries. In our region, a 3 percent increase in population is very high,” he said. “It’s not right [to report this]. I’m not sure what the purpose of this propaganda is, but it is definitely crazy.”

The report claimed that unnamed Scandinavian and Gulf countries had offered aid packages in response to the alleged projected uptick of refugees in Lebanon. Specifically, it noted that the EU had already donated 200 million euros ($219.4 million) in support.

As of Thursday evening, the European Union was unavailable to corroborate or deny the claim.

Over 1 million Syrian refugees are currently registered with UNHCR in Lebanon, but the government has estimated that the number is closer to 1.5 million. Large populations of refugees settling in remote and vulnerable areas of the country have sparked tensions with equally underprivileged host communities.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 05, 2017, on page 3.

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