Inflammation and stories on Lebanon

Everything to Know About Poverty in Lebanon
It has been almost three years since Lebanon, previously labeled as the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” began to slowly drown in poverty. As the ESCWA report stated, 82% of the Lebanese and non-Lebanese population lives in multidimensional poverty while 40% of them live in extreme multidimensional poverty. Those numbers result from an unprecedented economic crisis that started in October 2019 and kept on worsening with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Beirut Port explosion, the ongoing corruption and the war in Ukraine. Here is everything to know about poverty in Lebanon.

Health Care

One of the most important and dangerous symptoms of the poverty increase in Lebanon is the degradation of the health care system. The Lebanese lira has lost more than 90% of its value since 2019, making it impossible for many health care professionals (nurses and doctors) to live decently with their salaries, thus leading them to leave the country for better opportunities abroad. In addition to that, the country imports many medical care products and medicines, leading to a huge increase in their prices, making them unaffordable for many. Lebanon has the means to produce its drugs, an action that the actual government is encouraging while it still needs time before being fully implemented.

Public Utilities and Food Security

Another dimension to know about poverty in Lebanon is the lack of public utilities available to the people. The most famous, touching a majority of people, is the lack of electricity the state provides, forcing the Lebanese people to reach out to owners of private generators to have a few hours of electricity a day. However, this alternative has a considerable cost to Lebanese households. The fuel that powers the generators comes from abroad, requiring payments in USD and making it impossible for many to subscribe to this service amidst the severe economic crisis the country is going through.

A more recent issue Lebanon must face as a result of the War in Ukraine is the wheat crisis and with it a risk of shortage in bread production. The country imports more than 60% of its wheat from Ukraine. The urgency of this new issue also depends on the government’s capacity to secure enough quantities before any increase in the price of wheat.

Education

The numerous challenges Lebanon has faced over the past three years have also had their effect on education. According to UNICEF, 260,000 Lebanese children risk interrupting their education. Whether it is the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the students to stop their studies because of the lack of means to pursue them online, the destruction of some schools in Beirut after the port explosion and the economic crisis forcing some schools and universities to increase their tuitions making them unaffordable for many.

Efforts to Help Lebanon

A year ago, the World Bank approved a $246 million project to provide 147,000 households with basic needs as well as cash transfers. More recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached an agreement of $3 billion with the Lebanese government to help Lebanon get out of the crisis. On another note, local NGOs are playing an important role in helping people in need. Private actors are also taking initiatives to benefit from this situation, by enhancing made in Lebanon products, thus relying less on imports.

Hence, having presented everything to know about poverty in Lebanon, shows clearly that the country is not in its best phase. However, hope is always there with small steps taken towards a better future and especially with a young generation who is learning from the mistakes of the older. Helping Lebanon is therefore helping a country full of potential and showing once again that it will rise despite all.

Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Flickr

Cold Harms Those in Poverty
It may be easy to guess that during the colder months, those in poverty have a much more difficult time surviving than in warmer times. All around the world, people are struggling to stay warm – many in poverty must decide whether it is more important to have “heat or eat.” One cannot underestimate the reality of how the cold harms those in poverty globally.

Why the Cold is So Difficult for Those in Poverty

For many, cold weather signifies the dreaded winter season. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), families who are poor are four to five times more likely to live in cold homes and more than 30% of houses that are lower-income cannot keep their houses warm globally. Especially during the pandemic, families who have lost jobs are struggling now more than ever to keep their households at a decent temperature. Fuel poverty was a term that first emerged after the 1973 oil crisis to mean a period marked by increased prices in fuel which disproportionately affects low-income families. In essence, it is the inability to afford heating for one’s house at a reasonable cost.

Fuel poverty becomes all the more alarming when one considers the ramifications of living in cold homes during the winter. It is unimaginably uncomfortable and the Institute of Health Equity also reports that cold homes lead to higher mortality and morbidity rates. Lancet Planetary Health found that five million people die a year simply from the inability to adjust to temperature changes. Colder temperatures have links to more deaths of those in poverty and the stress of not being able to afford fuel can come in the form of both physical and mental illnesses. Those in poverty sometimes cannot afford the extra expense of fuel and heating for their homes. If they do, the population must sacrifice other aspects of their spending, such as basic nutrition. Thus, it is clear that the cold harms those in poverty much more than the average-income family.

Examples of the Effects of the Cold in Lebanon

Several regions around the world are struggling because of cold, winter weather. Studies have not shown that colder nations are more subject to poverty. However, more people are struggling to pay fuel costs as a result of rising costs due to the pandemic and inflation. Thus, during times of economic peril, low-income families struggle immensely in the cold. Most recently, Storm Hiba has left Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees in desperate circumstances.

Lebanon’s recent currency crisis has left many families in poverty, thus unable to afford the resources necessary to protect against the cold. Many are burning old clothes and plastic goods to keep warm, while others are simply relying on blankets. Since 90% of the Syrian refugees who live in Lebanon are in poverty, it is clear that the cold is disproportionately targeting them. Costs of wood are five times the minimum wage, while costs of diesel are 10 times what they were in 2019. Thus, those in poverty cannot afford to stay warm.

How Cold Harms Those in Poverty in Kazakhstan and Other Parts of Europe

Several other countries are victims of the cold weather’s effects on those in poverty. Kazakhstan, one of the coldest nations in the world, is deeply reliant on coal for heating. According to a study by Nazarbayez University, 28% of families in Kazakhstan have to spend more than 10% of their income simply on fuel for heating in the winter. This is a major problem for families who are in poverty, especially as energy prices rise.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6.9 million children have experienced displacement from their homes are at high risk for severe winter weather. The children come from numerous countries, such as Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Already, they are trying to keep warm in plastic containers and deaths have occurred as well. Even wealthier nations experience severe cold weather plights due to fuel poverty. National Energy Action found that 9,700 people die in the U.K. from living in cold homes.

Save the Children and the Community Action on Fuel Poverty (CAFP)

Many organizations are trying to help victims of the cold. Save the Children is a U.K.-based organization that seeks to provide aid to children in poverty globally. The organization has continuously been searching for better accommodations for children in severe temperatures and has provided blankets, hygiene baskets and warm clothing to those in desperate need. The Community Action on Fuel Poverty (CAFP) is an organization that seeks to spread awareness of poverty through outreach to everyday people. It hosts workshops and sessions, training and energy-efficient campaigns to promote knowledge about the fuel poverty crisis in different communities in England specifically.

Learning about different benefits to lower the cost of fuel prices and information on legislation affecting fuel costs are what work the CAFP promotes. Also, people can call upon local and international governments to increase awareness of thermal discomfort, especially for poor families during the lockdown. Governments need to make long-term plans for sourcing heat for all families during the winter.

The European Union’s Plans to Address Fuel Poverty

The European Union has developed a program to address fuel poverty, recognizing the budget to prevent fuel poverty has decreased greatly. Its plan “Energy Efficiency in Household Buildings” offers incentives to citizens who meet income criteria to maintain energy-efficient heating and cooling. The “Better Energy Warmer Homes” plan provides energy efficiency measures to low-income households specifically. Similar programs should begin in nations with fuel poverty crises currently as there is a lack of similar government initiatives in countries ranging from Lebanon to Kazakhstan.

While the cold harms those in poverty, there are ways in which poor families can find relief and comfort. Calling on governments to do more and donating to organizations similar to Save the Children can greatly benefit those in the cold.

Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Economic Collapse in Lebanon
Poverty continues to loom over Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities, leaving them to battle with deteriorating living standards and several health hazards. Lebanese people’s quality of life sank to an unprecedented low due to many reasons. One of the most prominent reasons for the economic collapse in Lebanon is the Lebanese government’s immense amount of debts that add up to the “equivalent [of] 150% of national output.”

Lebanon’s Economic Landscape

Some financial experts describe the Lebanese government’s economic system “as a nationally regulated Ponzi scheme where new money is borrowed to pay existing creditors.” Adding to the nation’s troubles, the corrupt elite in Lebanon exploited the country’s foreign aid and income post-civil war and continue to do so to this day. The indebted government struggled to make ends meet, which led to the devaluation of the national Lebanese currency. While the economic collapse affected all citizens residing on Lebanese land, the already dire standard of life of the Lebanese lower-class became worse in several ways.

5 Ways the Economic Collapse in Lebanon Impacts Disadvantaged People

  1. Unlivable Wages: The official Lebanese currency, the Lebanese pound, “lost more than 90% of its value.” This extreme devaluation plunged the Lebanese further into poverty. The minimum wage in Lebanon’s value decreased from the equivalent of $450 monthly to what is now worth around $30 per month. As a consequence, “a family’s budget just for food is around five times the minimum wage,” says the Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut.
  2. Medicine Shortage: Due to the scarcity of foreign currency in the country, Lebanese pharmaceutical companies struggle with importing or manufacturing life-saving medicine. To counter this shortage, in July 2021, the Lebanese government lifted subsidies on most life-saving medicine. While this development affects the entire Lebanese population, those with limited or no income experience the greatest impact as medicine now becomes a luxury most cannot afford.
  3. Life-Threatening Power Outages: As the Lebanese economy continues to suffer, the government struggles to import fuel and maintain power generators. As a result, low-income neighborhoods across the country barely receive one hour of electricity per day. This circumstance proved to be extremely destructive as companies, bakeries, schools, grocery stores and even hospitals scaled back operations or completely closed down. Such closures made access to life-saving medical operations, as well as food, extremely challenging.
  4. Unemployment as a Result of Scarce Fuel: Due to the economic crisis, private and public sectors are incapable of importing essential fuel and gasoline. To combat the extreme gasoline shortage in the country, the Lebanese government raised gasoline prices by 66% in August 2021. As a result, many low-income independent contractors, such as taxi drivers and bus drivers, could not afford to work anymore. Due to the recent unemployment of low-income families’ primary breadwinners, the Lebanese working class plunges deeper into poverty.
  5. Deteriorating Diets: Lebanon’s most vulnerable people continue to miss one important component at their dinner tables: meat. As the country’s currency continues to devalue, the prices of meat soar. Toward the end of 2020, “fresh and frozen cattle meat prices” in Lebanon increased by 110%, according to a World Bank assessment. Moreover, the prices of chicken witnessed a 68.4% increase over the last few months. With no other affordable protein sources readily available, malnutrition threatens Lebanon’s impoverished and hungry people. Furthermore, UNICEF reports that “three in 10 families” assessed in April 2021 “had at least one child” missing meals.

Beit El Baraka

As the factors mentioned above overlap, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) launched several initiatives and efforts to aid Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities. One of the most prominent NGOs currently operating on a large scale within Lebanon is Beit El Bakara. The NGO is dedicated to helping Lebanon’s vulnerable families by covering medical expenses, paying bills and tuitions and providing meals and essential services. Since its launch, Beit El Baraka’s team helped more than 128 families pay their electricity bills, paid 93 families’ rental costs, covered the cost of treatment for 1,681 patients in need and refurbished 3,011 homes across 62 Lebanese areas.

The economic collapse in Lebanon is becoming increasingly dire. Without help, Lebanon and its people could face a catastrophic fate as more than half of the population sinks below the poverty line. Therefore, aiding the Lebanese population should be a top priority of the international community.

– Nohad Awada
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Child Poverty in Lebanon
Children living in Lebanon have been experiencing the full impact of the weakened economy in the country. Due to the Beirut explosion and the collapse of the Lebanese pound, child poverty has been on the rise in Lebanon. Child’s education, health and protection have become difficult to acquire.

The Deterioration of the Economy

Lebanon has struggled with its economy for a while due to its reliance on foreign imports and the limited exports coming from its country. As of 2021, Lebanon has failed to see economic growth, but the government is continuing to borrow money from other countries.

In addition, Lebanon’s government consists of 18 politicians of different religious denominations, such as Christian and Muslim. Because of this, Lebanon is susceptible to interference from other countries. As a result, Lebanon has become “one of the world’s largest debt burdens as a result of years of inefficiency, waste and corruption,” according to Reuters.

Moreover, in October 2019, the Lebanese pound began to lose its value due to the shortage of foreign currency in their commercial banks. This caused high-interest rates, leading to the emergence of a black market. Because there is an absence of taxes on the transactions and the government is not aware of the activity happening in the black market, this harms the economy.

While Lebanon was struggling economically, an explosion in Beirut worsened its situation. For instance, on August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in agricultural fertilizers and bombs, exploded throughout the city of Beirut. Due to this, the air filled with dust, causing concern about the toxins people were consuming in the air.

Unfortunately, the explosion killed 140, wounded 5,000 and displaced 300,000. Of those 300,000, 100,000 of them were children, as UNICEF reported.

About Child Poverty in Lebanon

Due to the deterioration of the economy, Lebanon’s poverty rate has doubled from 42% to 82% between 2019 to 2021. As a result, many families cannot afford basic necessities for their children because of inflation, thus increasing child poverty in Lebanon. These families face shortages of food, water and electricity in their homes. Under these circumstances, many children have no choice but to skip meals, according to the OWP.

In addition, “34% of children were not able to receive necessary primary health care,” the OWP reported. In fact, many families need to access water through private providers at a cost because water from public works is insufficient to drink.

Child poverty in Lebanon leads to children living in conditions where they cannot grow and thrive. As economic inequality increases, children become susceptible to child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Education in Lebanon

Additionally, many children do not have the option to attend school anymore because of the Beirut explosion. Unfortunately, the explosion damaged 163 schools, leaving children struggling to obtain an education through other means.

Due to the lack of technology and internet connectivity, many children cannot participate in remote learning activities. As families endure the hardships brought upon by the explosion, families are resorting to  “sending their children to work in often dangerous and hazardous conditions, marrying off their daughters or selling their belongings,” said UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, Yukie Mokuo.

To avoid child marriages and selling their belongings, children need to work. Many of them work in agriculture, metalworking or factories under inhumane conditions. Addressing child poverty in Lebanon, the government signed the ILO’s Convention on Child Labor, but it failed to become a law.

Save the Children

Lebanese children are receiving help from various organizations, such as Save the Children. Save the Children believes that children are the most vulnerable when disaster strikes, so it created an organization that focused on protecting them and giving them a chance at a new beginning.

Specifically, it is asking for donations to achieve its goals to improve the lives of Lebanese children. Some of the organization’s goals for child poverty in Lebanon are to increase the quality of education, restore schools and install water, sanitation and hygiene resources for the children to access.

Lastly, it hopes to protect Lebanese children from “psychological stress, neglect, violence, and abuse.” By doing this, Save the Children hopes to show the Lebanese children that they have the right to obtain these basic needs for a better future.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also been aiding children in Lebanon by providing Lebanese families with children with cash grants in the form of U.S. dollars, aiming to help 70,000 children in need. This is an effort to remove children from working and avoid skipping meals.

To add, UNICEF “is also providing mental health support and psychological first aid to children who are engaged in child labor, those who have experienced or are at risk of violence,” as stated on its website.

As a result, the children will have the ability to think for themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem. Similar to Save the Children, UNICEF has spent $6.9 million to help repair Lebanon’s water systems, aiding children’s health. The organization is continuing to reach more vulnerable children and their families, offering them support in any way it can.

With the increasing poverty rate in Lebanon, living conditions are becoming unbearable for many Lebanese children. Fortunately, Save the Children and UNICEF are assisting Lebanon, providing education measures, health services and protection for Lebanese children.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lebanon
According to the United Nations, Lebanon is facing a significant economic crisis, with nearly three-quarters of the country living below the poverty line as of September 2021. This staggering poverty rate warrants assistance from the international community.

Lebanon’s Poverty in Numbers

In a 2019 report, the U.N. found that “between 2019 and 2020,” poverty in Lebanon rose “from 28% to 55%.” When looking at multi-dimensional poverty, the situation is even more severe. According to the World Bank, multi-dimensional poverty ratings look to “understand poverty beyond monetary deprivations,” by including six key indications: “education, health, public utilities, housing, assets and property as well as employment and income.” Lebanon’s multidimensional poverty rate almost “doubled from 42% in 2019 to 82% in 2021.” Furthermore, about a third of the Lebanese population has no access to adequate health care, a fact that is especially concerning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.N., close to 25% of the country could not meet their nutritional food needs by the close of 2020.

Additionally, by August 2021, Lebanon reached a record high unemployment rate of more than 35% — a sudden surge from the single-digit average throughout the past decade. With this crisis, the value of the Lebanese lira has also decreased by almost 80% against the U.S. dollar as a result of extreme inflation and economic deterioration.

Lebanon’s Deteriorating Economy

Investigations show Lebanon’s economic crisis could date back to the early 2010s, although the primary detriments of the surge appear at the beginning of 2019. Although there is no evidence that COVID-19 was a direct cause of this crisis, its effects certainly did not aid the economy when exports slowed immensely, thus stalling the country’s primary export industries. Additionally, World Bank experts predict that Lebanon’s economy may decline by 10.5% by the close of 2021.

Lebanon’s corrupt banking sector shares the blame for the country’s economic crisis. It lent the Lebanese government close to 75% of its deposits in early 2019. The result of this was “extreme bankruptcy.” Additionally, the political turmoil in Lebanon played a contributing role to instability — the nation had no official leader between 2014 and 2016. Experts believe the economic crash was inevitable with no proper leadership. According to an article by the Middle East Institute, Lebanon’s economy could see a decline “from $60 billion in 2018 to $15 billion” by the end of 2021.

World Bank Assistance

Despite how dire Lebanon’s situation may appear, hope is on the horizon. In January 2021, the World Bank Group announced the approval of “a $246 million new project to provide emergency cash transfers and access to social services to approximately 786,000 [impoverished] and vulnerable Lebanese” facing the impacts of both the economic crisis and COVID-19.

This initiative, the Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN), will also help implement “social safety nets” to improve the nation’s resilience and recovery in the face of “future shocks” or crises. To help people living in extreme poverty, the ESSN project will provide cash assistance to these individuals for 12 months. Additionally, the ESSN will provide a “top-up cash transfer” to 87,000 Lebanese children aged 13-18 to cover the costs of education, including uniforms, supplies and remote learning resources.

Lebanon’s economic crisis brings suffering to countless citizens. However, the World Bank’s ESSN poverty alleviation project has the potential to provide essential relief to the most vulnerable citizens, ultimately reducing overall poverty in Lebanon.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Lebanon
USAID Lebanon celebrated World Teacher’s Day 2021 by recognizing the 35,000 Syrian and Lebanese students who received basic literacy and numeric skills through USAID’s summer catch-up program. By partnering with Lebanon’s Ministry of Education, USAID equipped 3,500 teachers with mentorship, curriculum and school supplies. This is just a glimpse of the impact of USAID programs in Lebanon.

USAID Programs in Lebanon

The United States’ relationship with Lebanon began as early as 1951. Since USAID’s commitment to assist Lebanon’s development in 2006, USAID has supported Lebanon with more than $1.3 billion worth of foreign aid. USAID’s work in Lebanon focuses on three main sectors: education, “local development and governance” and economic development. In 2021 alone, USAID contributed $41 million to fund COVID-19 relief and economic development programs in Lebanon. This funding continues to impact the lives of millions amid rising poverty levels in Lebanon.

It is important to note that Lebanon has not always needed this level of support. Once a continental trade center, Lebanon has a rich development history, complete with rising income levels and GDP growth. A 15-year civil war ending in 1990 disrupted the value of the Lebanese pound, creating a snowball effect of economic casualties. With the compounded effects of COVID-19, a global recession and a refugee crisis, 82% of the Lebanese population lives in multidimensional poverty in 2021.

Improving Education in Lebanon

USAID programs in Lebanon focus on improving education systems, acknowledging that education is a proven tool for long-term poverty reduction. The current state of the Lebanese public education system is poor. Noting the dilapidated school infrastructure in Lebanon, USAID aims to provide rehabilitation support to Lebanon by “helping to renovate nearly a third of all Lebanese public schools. “Additionally, USAID is supplying all 256 public high schools with “science lab equipment.” To improve the quality of education, USAID is “training 75 English-speaking teacher trainers from the Ministry of Education on the methodologies of teaching the subjects of English, science and math.”

The Reaching all Children with Education (RACE) program ran from 2013 to 2016. The second phase of the program will reach conclusion at the close of 2021. RACE aims to enhance “access to formal education for 460,000 Syrian refugee children and underprivileged Lebanese children in the country.” RACE’s phase 2 aims to accomplish this “by expanding equitable access to schooling, improving conditions for learning and strengthening management of the education system.”

To promote higher education as a means to decrease poverty, USAID has supplied full university scholarships “to more than 1,300 Lebanese and refugee students.” USAID also helps 12 higher education institutions in Lebanon “to better prepare their graduates” for success in the job market after their studies.

Local Development and Governance

USAID programs in Lebanon work with local governments to build better civil services, increase access to drinking water and modernize technical infrastructure. The water and sanitation program has invested $180 million since 2006 in order to rehabilitate water infrastructure. This program has increased drinking water access for 620,000 Lebanese citizens and 120,000 Syrian refugees. Since 2012, more than 1.3 million Lebanese people have experienced the positive impacts of USAID’s “almost $200 million investment to improve basic services, including renewal back-up power generation and clean water provision.”

Beyond funding, USAID also works to provide local governments with technical training and resources. Through this work, 270,000 individuals experienced increased earnings through job creation and technical development. USAID predicts that the number of beneficiaries will reach 645,000 by 2022.

Economic Growth

Finally, USAID programs in Lebanon provide funding, training and resources to improve economic development. Over the last seven years, $113 million in funding has benefitted more than 20,000 companies, startups and small businesses. Additionally, this assistance has led to the creation of thousands of new jobs and tens of millions of dollars in leveraged funding. By investing in economic development, USAID works to kickstart long-term poverty reduction.

Looking Ahead

By funding education, local governance and economic development, USAID programs in Lebanon improve the lives of millions of impoverished Lebanese people. The programs provide both short and long-term relief, bolstering Lebanon’s ability to bounce back from decades of economic disruptions.

– Aiden Marina Smith
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Lebanon
In a world where many people within underdeveloped nations struggle to afford even their next meal, the issue of period poverty runs rampant. In Lebanon, specifically, a country experiencing what the World Bank describes as “one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s,” the issue of period poverty in Lebanon is a growing concern.

What is Period Poverty?

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines period poverty as “the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.” However, one can also use the term in a more broad and all-encompassing way. Period poverty also refers to any increased financial vulnerability a group of people may face strictly due to menstruation. As the country of Lebanon sinks deeper into economic and financial turmoil, period poverty in Lebanon has reached an all-time high. According to local Lebanese organization Dawrati, as much as 66% of adolescent Lebanese girls cannot afford menstrual products to properly manage their menstruation.

Overall Poverty in Lebanon

The official Lebanese currency, the Lebanese pound, is facing severe devaluation due to several factors such as corruption, crippling debt and the lack of foreign currency circulation in the country. This financial issue plunged the Lebanese population further into poverty. According to the Observatory, “the cost of food has soared by 700% over the past two years” with the potential to increase further in 2021.

The United Nations indicates that the Lebanese multidimensional poverty rate has drastically increased from 42% of the population in 2019 to 82% in 2021. Now, a significant portion of the Lebanese population earns unlivable wages, leaving most families stuck below the poverty line.

As necessities such as food and medicine become scarce and more difficult to afford, people who menstruate view menstrual products as luxuries they simply cannot afford. Due to inflation, the price of menstrual pads and products increased by 500%. This increase, in addition to the severe decrease in the value of incomes in Lebanese households, makes period poverty in Lebanon a major issue.

The Challenges Lebanese Girls and Women Face

By attempting to substitute menstrual products with more accessible alternatives, Lebanese girls and women put themselves at risk of infections and health complications. With more than 66% of girls and women in Lebanon unable to afford menstrual products, this substitution is a common reality. More than half of women in Lebanon have reduced their consumption of pads, opting for less sanitary options to manage their periods.

Lebanese women are increasingly replacing menstrual products with children’s diapers, old pieces of cloth or fabric and even newspapers. In addition to health concerns brought about by unsanitary methods of managing periods, period poverty in Lebanon also impacts the education of girls. Many adolescent girls skip school due to a lack of menstrual products, impacting their overall education and prospects for future success.

Taking Action Against Period Poverty in Lebanon

Even though the situation concerning period poverty in Lebanon is challenging, organizations are rallying to support Lebanese people who menstruate. “Dawrati,” which translates from Arabic into “menstruation cycle,” is one of the most prominent non-governmental organizations addressing period poverty in Lebanon.

Dawrati began in May 2020 and its efforts include distributing thousands of menstruation kits, maternity kits and first-time period kits to Lebanese people in the nation’s most vulnerable areas. The organization participates in many collaborative projects with other non-governmental organizations to ensure access to menstrual kits countrywide. The organization is partnering with the Zovighian Partnership to gather data on precise period poverty statistics in Lebanon. This comprehensive research will inform Dawrati’s lobbying efforts and “help Dawrati finalize its policy proposal to end period poverty in Lebanon.”

Looking Ahead

As Lebanon’s economy continues to deteriorate, it remains important to focus on addressing period poverty as issues affecting girls and women often go overlooked by governments. Period poverty in Lebanon is a serious concern, however, many individuals and organizations continue to support the country’s most vulnerable people with the resources they need to properly manage their menstrual cycles.

– Nohad Awada
Photo: Flickr

Aid for Lebanon
At the beginning of the year, in January 2021, the World Bank approved and accepted the United States’ $249 million project proposal to bring aid into Lebanon. The social and economic situations in Lebanon over the past several months and years have become desperately dire, and the United States, the World Bank and its parent organization, the United Nations, are all seeking to meet the needs of the many suffering Lebanese people.

The Situation in Lebanon

Lebanon has been facing a prolonged financial crisis as well as economic upheaval, which, in 2020, resulted in severe inflation of the country’s currency, the Lebanese Pound (LBP), and led to a 19.2% drop in the GDP. As of September 2021, the U.N. reported that the multidimensional poverty rate in Lebanon has risen to 82%, with 32% of the Lebanese population living in extreme multidimensional poverty.

The Lebanese people are lacking in basic commodities and healthcare services, which has also exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on Lebanon. Unable to reach treatment facilities or even get diagnoses, the Lebanese people have suffered greatly from the pandemic. The pandemic’s stifling effect on businesses in Lebanon has also further compounded the financial struggles that Lebanon is already facing.

The Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN)

The Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN) began official operations in February 2021, providing funds and services to those struggling under the combined crises of Lebanon’s dismal financial state, complicated geopolitical relations and poor COVID-19 response infrastructure. The ESSN will attempt to work with and bolster existing active programs within Lebanon; the goal is to complement other projects without collateral damage to the already fragile internal systems.

The ESSN has been working closely with social programs that are already established, and that both the Lebanese Social Development Centers of the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education run. Understanding the importance of using every available resource, the ESSN has also been working closely with other third-party projects, most notably Lebanon’s National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP), which also runs through the U.N. and the World Bank to identify problem areas within the country and help codify response programs.

How the ESSN is Providing Aid for Lebanon

To try to get Lebanon back on its feet, there are two main fronts on which the ESSN is attempting to help revitalize economic growth and stem the tide of poverty. The first is basic aid packages in the form of cash deposits for families, individuals, and those with unfortunate circumstances. These are to provide immediate relief and bring some sense of stability to the people stranded in poverty. In order to accomplish this, the ESSN had been providing financial and technical support in order to greatly increase the capabilities and operations of the NPTP. Using the infrastructure already put in place through the NPTP, both projects hope to be able to proliferate aid quickly, effectively and fairly.

The second front that the ESSN is attempting to fight poverty on is that of human capital, specifically the promise of the young people of Lebanon. Recognizing that people are the most valuable resource, the ESSN’s work with the Lebanese Ministry of Education has begun to keep children in schools. Education is the key to opportunity, and ESSN is working to subsidize both the public school systems in Lebanon and also the schooling costs for individual students. By ensuring the quality of education and by granting students the socioeconomic stability to be able to continue attending school, the ESSN is attempting to assist Lebanon with investing in its future.

Becoming fully approved and operational in 2021, the ESSN will receive funding, and it will remain running for three years as it provides aid for Lebanon. Reports as recently as July 2021 have positive responses, and already, a large amount of aid has undergone disbursement to individuals, families and students alike. The ESSN has plans to continue to show support by investing in Lebanon and its people, a hearty show of humanity.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Flickr

The WeekndThe Weeknd is famous for his singing, songwriting and producing career. He performed at the halftime show in the 2021 Super Bowl and even won an Oscar for his song “Earned It,” which was featured in the film “Fifty Shades of Grey.” What many don’t know about The Weeknd is that he is a philanthropist who quietly donates to several organizations that help global poverty relief.

The Weeknd’s Background

Much of The Weeknd’s philanthropy ties back to his cultural roots. Born as Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd’s parents are Ethiopian immigrants. Although Tesfaye grew up in Toronto, Canada, his first language was Amharic. Amharic is one of the two main languages of Ethiopia, further showing his connection to the region.

Ethiopian Philanthropy

A significant portion of The Weeknd’s philanthropy goes toward his parents’ home country of Ethiopia. In April 2021, he donated $1 million to World Food Program USA, which is the U.S. affiliate of the United Nations World Food Programme. This donation will fund two million meals in Ethiopia. Specifically, these meals will benefit people who do not have access to food in the northern Tigray region where there is an ongoing ethnic conflict with Ethiopia’s neighboring country, Eritrea. Civilians suffer the most from the conflict. They are often in danger, living in poor conditions and risk rape, violence and death.

When announcing his donation to World Food Program USA, The Weeknd stated in an Instagram post that, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.”

Prior to The Weeknd’s donation, the World Food Programme provided corn, rice and vegetable oil to 60,000 people in the northern Tigray region. The program also began an initiative to support pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as children in the region, with the goal of reaching 875,000 people. The program also has two refugee camps in Tigray, open to people seeking safety and help.

Donations to Beirut

The Weeknd’s philanthropy extends beyond Ethiopia, as he donated to COVID-19 relief as well as relief for Beirut, Lebanon. Following an explosion at the Port of Beirut, The Weeknd donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon. The explosion damaged homes, infrastructure and hospitals. It injured 6,000 people and killed 180. The detonation also damaged the city’s main hospital and other clinics, making it difficult to treat victims. The explosion was also at the city’s port, which drastically affected their ability to trade and receive imports. Additionally, the poverty rate in Lebanon jumped from 33% to 45%. It came mainly as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion. Global Aid for Lebanon raised more than $1.2 million to provide food, treatment and infrastructure aid to those impacted by the explosion.

The Weeknd’s philanthropy has benefitted many lives and helped many get the assistance they needed following unsafe conditions. While he is a quiet philanthropist, he has been instrumental in helping vulnerable people in global poverty.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

Beirut BlastOn August 4, 2020, a horrific explosion took place in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least 214 people and injuring thousands of civilians. The Beirut blast “was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history” as it tore through the city. Estimations indicate that roughly “552 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded” at the port of Beirut. Since the explosion, Lebanon has experienced heightened civil unrest, economic hardship, increasing poverty and political deadlock.

In the face of the tragedy and adversity that continues to plague Lebanon, young people in Beirut are innovatively working to rebuild the Lebanese capital. Cash 4 Work, a program mobilized by UNICEF, is a youth network focused on helping reconnect homes to municipal and private water supplies along with prioritizing the cleaning and rehabilitation of Beirut.

Economic Impacts of the Beirut Blast

Lebanon was facing a severe economic crisis even before the Beirut blast. After the explosion, poverty levels rose further and the Lebanese economy essentially collapsed. According to the World Bank, the country’s GDP has decreased by a staggering 40% with more than 50% of the population pushed into the depths of poverty. Job prospects for youth are increasingly difficult to come by, placing young professionals in a tough position as they attempt to secure their futures amid a failing economy.

Participants of the recent UNICEF Cash 4 Work program are primarily the most vulnerable and impoverished youth who understand first-hand what living in poverty looks and feels like. According to UNICEF, “Cash 4 Work programs create earning opportunities that can temporarily stabilize people’s incomes following a disaster or a crisis.” Participants learn valuable skills, knowledge and training to improve their economic status and their ability to provide for their families. Furthermore, with the tools to positively impact their country, youth participants are able to use their skills to rebuild the nation and lift others out poverty.

The Role of the Youth

Immediately after the explosion, the youth of Beirut were among the first to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding their communities. At the time, UNICEF staff were on the ground working with more than 1,170 youth volunteers to sweep up debris, perform household repairs and deliver food and cloth masks to affected citizens. In an interview with Forbes, a teenager working on the ground said, “We will not lose hope. We are staying here on the ground.”

UNICEF staff “reconnected more than 60 buildings to the public water system” and handed out emergency supplies “including 1,600 hygiene kits and 400 baby kits to families in need.” UNICEF also helped “reunite children with their families” and supported child counseling efforts to address the trauma of the Beirut blast.

Exactly one year after the Beirut blast, youth mobilization continues with the support of UNICEF’s new Cash 4 Work program, which ensures new job opportunities in Lebanon. Cash 4 Work is not only playing an active role in shaping the job market for young professionals but it is also connecting people with the goal of shaping a more positive future for Beirut. A 24-year-old Cash 4 Work participant, Mohammad, describes his experience with the program. He tells UNICEF, “I am happy that I gained a skill and I am still learning. To work on my future and achieve my goals, especially in these difficult times, is something special.”

Programs and initiatives from humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF bring hope to a devastated country, allowing citizens a chance to continue to rebuild and recover more than a year after the Beirut blast.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr