“With every passing day I feel like a candle, melting little by little.” experiences of long-term displacement amongst Syrian refugees in Shatila, Lebanon

Journal Article


Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Abstract Background Long term displacement and exposure to challenging living conditions can influence family dynamics; gender roles; violence at home and in the community and mental well-being. This qualitative study explores these issues as perceived by Syrian refugees who have been living in Shatila, a Palestinian camp in South Beirut, Lebanon, for at least 2 years. Methods Twenty eight in-depth interviews with men and women were conducted between February and June 2018. Women were recipients of mental health services, and men were recruited from the local community. Interviews were conducted in Arabic, translated, transcribed, coded and analysed using thematic content analysis. Results Our results show patterns of harsh living conditions similar to those described earlier in the course of the Syrian refugee crisis. Lack of infrastructure, overcrowding, cramped rooms and violence were all reported. Participants also described a lack of social support, discrimination and harassment within the host community, as well as limited social support networks within their own Syrian refugee community. Family dynamics were affected by the increased responsibilities on men, women and children; with additional economic and employment demands on men, women assuming the roles of ‘mother and father’ and children having to work and contribute to the household. Participants discussed several types of violence, including parental violence against children and violence in the community. Violence against women was also reported. Reported mental health issues included depression, anxiety, sadness, frustration, hopelessness, self-neglect and a loss of sense of self and self-worth. Some participants expressed a wish to die. Conclusions This study describes experiences of changing gender roles, family dynamics, violence and mental health after long-term displacement in in Shatila camp, South Beirut as perceived by Syrian refugees. A lack of safety and security coupled with economic hardship rendered refugees even more susceptible to exploitation and harassment. Parental violence was the most commonly reported type of domestic violence.