More than three-quarters of the refugees live outside of camps, renting apartments or garage space, finding shelter in abandoned buildings or constructing homes on vacant land. The population of many towns has doubled or tripled virtually overnight.
While many of those fleeing are destitute, large numbers of Syrian professionals and business leaders have left, too. They are buying, renting or even building high-end real estate in Beirut, Amman and Istanbul.
Rising demand has driven up rents across the region, in many cases forcing local people out of their homes. Some Jordanian families are living in U.N. tents meant for Syrian refugees. The region’s worst winter storm in years has added to the misery in recent days. Refugees who have flimsy shelters, no source of heat and little warm clothing are now being forced to cope with freezing rain and snow.
Cross-border trade has been devastated. Farmers who used to ship goods to Syria, or across Syria to Saudi Arabia and other big markets, have suffered major losses. Tourism is down in Jordan and Lebanon, where large numbers of Syrians are now begging on the fashionable streets of Beirut.
A recent World Bank report said that between 2012 and 2014, the Syrian crisis is likely to cut the growth of Lebanon's gross domestic product by 2.9 percentage points annually, costing billions in lost economic activity. The report said increased competition for jobs is forcing down wages and could double the jobless rate among Lebanese workers to more than 20 percent. All those factors, the report concluded, are likely to push at least 170,000 more Lebanese into poverty, adding to the 1 million who are already there.
The Turkish government has spent more than $2.5 billion to care for refugees. Syrian patients are now the majority in many hospitals and clinics. Schools are running two or three shifts a day to keep a generation of Syrians from going uneducated.
Across the region, services such as electricity, sewage and garbage collection are stretched to the breaking point. Water is scarce; in Jordan, which has less renewable water than almost any other country, hundreds of thousands of new people are draining overburdened aquifers at an alarming rate.
Jordanian officials said it will cost $1.7 billion to continue housing the nearly 600,000 refugees in the country, including the construction of power plants, sewage treatment plants, hospitals and 120 schools in the coming months. That is equal to nearly 18 percent of last year's total national budget. Jordanian officials said refugee spending will jump to $3.2 billion next year.
Source: Washington post News paper