Nothing and Everything to Lose: Results from a Qualitative WhatsApp Survey of Palestinian Camps and Gatherings in Lebanon


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Nothing and Everything to Lose: Results from a Qualitative WhatsApp Survey of Palestinian Camps and Gatherings in Lebanon

October 6, 2020

In October 2019, as part of the Tensions Monitoring System, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), administered a qualitative WhatsApp survey to gain insight into the lives of Palestinians in Lebanon. Based on responses from the survey, this report aims to provide a more nuanced understanding of community needs, social relationships, inter-community tensions, and security environments in Palestine refugee camps and gatherings in Lebanon. It combines data from the qualitative WhatsApp survey, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) with Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian community members and UNRWA and non-governmental organisation (NGO) frontline staff to build an in-depth qualitative analysis of two sites: (i) Wadi Zeineh gathering, a Palestinian Gathering in the Chouf area that is affiliated with Sibline municipality; and (ii) Mieh Mieh camp, a Palestine refugee camp located south of the city of Saida.

While quantitative surveys provide a broad overview of social stability trends, they often fail to capture the more subtle dynamics in people’s perceptions of social relationships. Furthermore, there is a risk of generalisation in employing a quantitative approach since both questions and answers may be oversimplified. For instance, by asking ‘What is the relationship between the Lebanese and the Palestinians?’, we would effectively eliminate the heterogeneity of these groups and infer that only one type of relationship exists between them. A qualitative survey, on the other hand, allows us to hear from community members directly in order to unpack these social stability trends. 

The WhatsApp survey is an innovation which has simply repurposed a technology that is already widely in use. In Lebanon, for instance, 78 per cent of Syrian refugee households use WhatsApp for daily communication; with the number likely to be similar for Palestine refugees. In order to collect data from a range of participants, including those who struggle with literacy or dyslexia, participants were invited to send voice notes detailing their stories, insights and experiences. Collating these accounts in this way also facilitates new ways to connect with refugees and host communities at the human-level, valuing their knowledge and input beyond fundamental statistics. The survey covered a range of topics including conflict dynamics, individual safety and needs, gender relationships, and people’s vision of the future. 

Document Type
Regions and Countries