Inflammation and stories on Lebanon

10 Facts About Sanitation in Lebanon
Lebanon is a Middle Eastern country located in Western Asia. Bordered by Syria and Israel, Lebanon has a population of about 6.8 million. In the past 40 years, Lebanon has faced a civil war, spillover from the Syrian civil war, years of political unrest and a two-and-a-half-year leadership gap in 2014. Lebanon’s sanitation issues have been a task the government has not yet solved due to the amount of political and governmental unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, foreign aid groups are intervening to keep the Lebanese people safe. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Lebanon.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Lebanon

  1. Lebanon is facing a garbage crisis. In 2015, Naameh, a large Lebanese landfill site, closed due to unsanitary conditions and capacity issues. Government authorities struggled to find a contingency plan in time, leading to what Human Rights Watch calls a “national health crisis.” Garbage is piling up on streets and in riverbanks in its capital, Beirut. Burning waste is a method that Beirut and Mount Lebanon has used since Naameh closed, but it poses a threat to the Lebanese people. The Human Rights Watch reported that, since the closure, doctors near Beirut saw an increase in respiratory illnesses. In addition, experts have linked the inhalation of smoke from burning waste to heart disease, cancer and skin conditions. During the COVID-19 outbreak, this crisis has worsened. Nongovernmental organizations have to take Lebanon’s medical waste because the country cannot properly dispose of it.
  2. Water quality has deteriorated, in part due to the garbage crisis. USAID wrote that the dumping of waste in rivers, in combination with urbanization and the lack of a waste management system, has led to a deterioration in Lebanon’s water quality. Waterborne diseases, such as dysentery, hepatitis A, leishmaniasis and typhoid, are leading diseases that affect children.
  3. The Syrian crisis spillover into Lebanon has had harmful effects on the country’s water. The war has led to an influx of more than 1.5 million refugees to Lebanon. Consequently, this has added significantly to the country’s water stress. Access to a public network of water as a drinking source dropped from 57% to 35% between 2004 and 2009. Currently, UNICEF is working with the Lebanese government to improve access to both safe drinking water and waste services.
  4. Access to clean water is expensive. Nearly one in three Lebanese buys their drinking water from an alternative source because of the issues with official water supplies. These sources often come at a cost. Additionally, an average Beirut family can spend up to 15% of its monthly income on just water.
  5. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has coordinated with Lebanese authorities to improve sanitary conditions and safe water access. UNHCR’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) efforts designs to help both refugees and Lebanese communities meet their basic needs and strengthen infrastructure. Its interventions helped sanitation in Lebanon. In fact, it improved sanitary conditions for 108,000 people and access to safe water for 27,000 people by the end of 2016. By June 2017, it had improved the sanitary conditions for 110,700 refugees and installed more than 147 km of pipeline in nine water supply systems.
  6. Lebanon’s air quality is unsafe. Recent data indicates that Lebanon’s annual mean concentration of PM 2.5 is three times the recommended maximum amount. Tourism and cement industries, food processing, mineral and chemical products, oil refining and vehicle emissions are all contributors to Lebanon’s poor air quality. Exposure to air pollution short term can lead to symptoms such as itchy throat, nose, eyes and chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, nausea and upper respiratory infections. Moreover, longterm effects include lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Globally, one can attribute 5 million deaths each year to air pollution. Around 93% of the population in Beruit experiences exposure to high levels of air pollution. As of 2019, Lebanon is still looking for solutions for this.
  7. UNICEF helped more than 134,000 refugees learn about health and sanitation. About 18% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in tents or makeshift shelters. In addition, 73% of refugees rent units that are in poor condition, lacking kitchens, toilets and running water. The lack of these resources — especially for those living in makeshift settlements — is a sanitation risk. UNICEF reached out to more than 134,000 refugees living in Informal Settlements (ISs) to communicate “custom-tailored public health promotion messages” on topics relating to sanitation including safe water, hygiene, solid waste and communicable diseases.
  8. Rotary International has worked to improve hygiene in Lebanese schools. As of 2019, the Rotary wrote that it had installed a water filtration project to provide safe water to more than 1,000 schools. A second and third phase will work on advancing hygiene conversations between teachers and students and installing proper sewage systems and toilet seats in schools. It plans to continue its work by implementing water filtration in prisons.
  9. There has been an uptick in foodborne and waterborne diseases. The Ministry of Public Health’s epidemiological surveillance program has recorded increasing levels of water and foodborne illnesses. The cases rose from 1,072 in 2005 to 2,053 in 2018. This is likely because of people eating food that has come in contact with contaminated water. While the Rotary has worked on improving water conditions for schools and prisons, advocates are still attempting to bring awareness to the pollution issues in Lebanon.
  10. Foreign aid helps with Lebanon’s sanitation and access to water problems tremendously. In 2019, 98% of people had access to safely managed sanitation services. Meanwhile, about 93% of the population had access to safely managed drinking water services. More than 570,000 people gained access to improved drinking water through U.S. government assistance. The Lebanon Water Project, a five-year program with USAID, has funded $65 million in an attempt to create cleaner, more sustainable and reliable water sources in Lebanon. The project supports the Noth Lebanon Water Establishment with water infrastructure works and encourages the use of drip irrigation, which saves water.

While Lebanon still has a garbage crisis on its hands, something that the pandemic has made more difficult, organizations like USAID, WHO, UNICEF and UNHCR have helped improve sanitation in Lebanon outside of that crisis. As a result, more people have access to clean water.

Sophie Grieser
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in LebanonDomestic migrant workers in the Middle East are trapped in a modern form of slavery under the Kafala system. Indeed, Lebanon is home to a quarter of a million domestic workers. Domestic workers are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis as a result of the stay at home orders due to the pandemic, but many organizations are helping migrant workers evacuate in addition to providing food, housing and legal assistance amid COVID-19 in Lebanon.

The Kafala System

The Kafala System is an exploitative framework that requires migrant workers in Gulf nations to have a sponsor in order to be employed in these regions. The issue with this type of system is that the worker has no autonomy or freedom to choose how much they get paid, nor do they have the option to choose the hours they work. This gives employers a pass to sexually abuse workers, confiscate their personal documents such as IDs, passports, dictate where their employee is allowed to stay or move to and even withhold pay. In short, it allows for a modern form of slavery.

Due to COVID-19 in Lebanon, the country’s economy is projected to take a major hit. Already, the price of food has become inflated, unemployment is on the rise and the local currency value dropped from 1,500 pounds to the dollar to 3,500 pounds to the dollar.

Organizations Providing Relief

  • Egna Legna Besidet እኛ ለኛ በስደት: Egna Legna is a women’s rights organization run by Ethiopian domestic workers in Lebanon. Its mission is to provide basic necessities for other female domestic migrant workers at risk. The organization is non-partisan, non-religious and community-based. Egna Legna has raised more than $30,000 on its GoFundMe page which is funding efforts to provide food and medicine to endangered domestic workers in Lebanon. On May 13, the organization made round trips to hospitals to provide migrant workers with food and helped them pay their medical expenses.
  • Kafa: Kafa is a Lebanese nonprofit civil rights and women’s rights organization that is non-governmental and secular. Its mission is to stop violence and exploitation against migrant women in Lebanon. The group’s advocacy aims to amend harmful social and economic laws and provide legal support and psychological counseling to migrant victims of gender-based violence. Its “Enough” campaign has helped more than 1,000 migrant women and refugees who faced domestic violence get affordable legal services and psychological support.
  • Insan Association: Insan is a non-discriminatory nonprofit registered under Lebanon’s Ministry of Justice that works to protect the most marginalized individuals including domestic workers, asylum seekers and refugees. The foundation helps provide assistance to individuals that the government and the legal system do not typically protect. The organization provides legal assistance, psychological support and educational programs for refugees and migrant workers. A decade since its launch, the organization has helped provide legal assistance and psychological support to more than 900 individuals. The organization won the With and For Girls Award in 2015 for its advocacy and assistance with young female refugees.

The fight for domestic worker rights is intrinsically linked to the fight for women’s rights. Around 80% of domestic workers worldwide are women and one in three women in the Middle East are wage workers. These three organizations are spreading the word about dismantling the Kafala system and freeing migrant women from domestic violence and abusive working conditions. In addition, they are working to provide relief to domestic workers who are suffering the consequences of COVID-19 in Lebanon.

– Isabel Corp
Photo: Unsplash

Economic Crisis in Lebanon
Lebanon is a small country in the Middle East that Syria and Israel borders. Once known as a prosperous leading regional center for finance and trade, the nation’s civil war crippled the economy. This traumatic event in Lebanese history eventually led to an economic crisis in Lebanon.

Economic Crisis in Lebanon

In 1975, civil war, Syrian occupation and clashes between Israel and Hezbollah destabilized Lebanon. Although Lebanon remains steady in economic freedom, it has encountered rough patches regarding politics. The economic crisis in Lebanon eerily compares to the current Syrian crisis. Both Lebanon and Syria have endured hardships of civil war and faced a surge in refugee intake.

Nearly 1.5 million Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon as a result of the nation’s own civil war. The refugee intake has negatively impacted Lebanon’s finances, service industry and environment. The crisis has also driven 200,000 people into poverty and left nearly 300,000 unemployed. The environmental effects have slowed down the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to nearly nothing, worsening the economic crisis in Lebanon. In 2018, the Lebanese growth rate was just 0.2 percent. As of 2020, Lebanon carries a $90 billion debt, which is about 170 percent of the nation’s GDP.

The second leading age group in Lebanon is the youth group. This makes it difficult for those in impoverished families to maintain a steady income or complete their education due to the demand in the workforce. The demand has also forced women who would normally take on household responsibilities to work low wage jobs for additional income. Due to the enormous refugee intake, Lebanese workers face much higher competition for jobs. The 1975 Civil War severely damaged the nation’s economy. Because of the war, Lebanon’s national output reduced by half and the nation lost recognition as a Middle Eastern banking hub.

The Fight Against the Crisis

In the fight for better living conditions for those living in poverty, Lebanon’s government launched the National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP) in October 2011, implemented by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The goal is to establish a national targeting system for the government. The system aims to improve the living conditions of the people, particularly those struggling in extreme poverty. The total cost of the NPTP was $9.34 million.

Habitat for Humanity has also been working to improve and provide housing for those in poverty in Lebanon since 2001. Habitat for Humanity builds, rebuilds, renovates and rehabilitates houses through partnership models to reach families in need of housing services across Lebanon.

The World Bank called for the formation of a new cabinet and said that it expected Lebanon to hit a recession by 2019. The World Bank comprises of many foreign donors who have pledged billions of dollars towards the aid that Lebanon desperately needs.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest debts at 170 percent of GDP. Political conflict in the nation, as well as regional disputes, have impacted economic growth. With aid in place, it is hopeful that the economy can reboot despite the high poverty and unemployment rates that plague the nation. For now, thanks to the organizations that offer aid to the nation, the Lebanese people are maintaining a good and steady quality of life.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Palestinian Refugee Camps
The first Arab-Israeli War in 1948 resulted in the mass, forced displacement of approximately 750,000 people throughout the Middle East, including in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. Today, over 5 million Palestinian refugees live in the region, where socio-economic issues, health conditions, food security, education and living conditions are all deteriorating, plunging refugees deeper into poverty. This article will discuss poverty in Palestinian refugee camps and what some are doing to alleviate the situation.

The Gaza Strip

There are 1.4 million Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, and according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the poverty rate increased to 53 percent by the end of 2017, from 38.8 percent in 2011. The poverty line in Palestine is at $4.60 per day to cover the minimum needs of a household, basic health care and education. Nonetheless, 656,000 people live in absolute poverty in Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza with less than $3.60 per day, which only suffices to cover food, clothing and shelter. This drastic increase in the poverty rate is due to several factors including the volatile nature of the economy due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli blockade on land, air and sea since 2007, and the United States’ $300 million budget cut towards the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2018.

Indeed, the drastic economic conditions not only increase food insecurity in Gaza due to the lack of economic access to food but also caused the average unemployment rate to rise above 50 percent in 2018, reaching one of the highest in the world. Moreover, the United States’ decision to cut $300 million from the UNRWA’s annual budget directly impacted education and schools in refugee camps. There is a shortage of staff in Gaza schools as the UNRWA and the Ministry of Education runs over two-thirds of them on double shifts, generating overcrowded schools and so impeding students’ learning and the level of education. The continuing blockade on Gaza affects health care as medical supplies are scarce and deficient, including medication for cancer and immunological diseases. All these factors have led to the impoverishment of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, leaving an estimated 80 percent dependent on international assistance.

Syria

There are 552,000 registered Palestinian refugees in Syria, however, since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, approximately 120,000 PRS have fled to neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan where they have an irregular status. The poverty rate among PRS is approximately 89 percent, including 9 percent living in extreme poverty in Palestinian refugee camps.

The UNRWA stepped up its activities in the nine official camps in Syria, as well as issued a Syria regional crisis emergency appeal in 2018 stating that 95 percent of Palestine refugees in Syria was in “critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance,” and improving PRS’ living conditions.

Lebanon

The legal restrictions that the Lebanese government imposed upon refugees combined with the country not being a signatory of the U.N. Refugee Convention (recognizing the legal obligations and basic rights of refugees), jeopardizes economic, political and social aspects of the lives of Palestinian refugees. Indeed, two-thirds (160,000 people) of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are either poor or extremely poor, which is the highest percentage of people living in poverty in Palestinian refugee camps.

Palestinian refugees face strong discriminatory labor laws; only 2 percent have an official work permit, 75 percent earn below the national minimum wage of $200 per month and 95 percent have no health insurance. Moreover, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not receive full citizenship and so suffer from limited access to public services, including public schools and Lebanon’s public health system. The UNRWA provides schools and medical facilities in the country’s 12 refugee camps, however, these suffer from understaffing and limited funds, and so do not suffice to secure decent education and health care for all Palestinian refugees. Besides, the Syrian conflict caused 30,000 Palestinian refugees to move to Lebanon, adding a new dimension to the existing issue. This reinforces the declining housing conditions in the overcrowded refugee camps which lack basic infrastructures and experience continuous electrical outages.

Jordan

Jordan hosts the largest amount of Palestinian refugees in the region with over 2 million registered people. Jordan is the only host country that grants full citizenship to Palestinian refugees, integrating them more into society. However, the 158,000 Palestinian refugees coming from the Gaza strip did not receive citizenship, limiting their rights in the country and making them more prone to poverty. In addition, 17,000 Palestinian refugees left Syria and entered Jordan during the Syrian conflict, of which 30 percent were highly vulnerable, according to the UNRWA. These refugees’ irregular or uncertain legal status in Jordan as Palestinian Refugees from Syria (PRS) exposes them to an insecure environment including difficulties to access government services. UNRWA is in dire need of funding and financial assistance in order to protect the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees living in Jordan.

Conclusion

UNRWA provides cash assistance to over 400,000 Palestinian refugees in one of the largest cash programs in the world, and it has deeply affected poverty levels among Palestinian refugees. Indeed, cash assistance decreased the number of Palestinian refugees living in absolute poverty (under $2 per day) from 90 percent to 74 percent in 2017. However, the lack of financial aid and assistance limits the UNRWA’s activities in refugee camps, and the ongoing state of conflict in the region prevents significant improvements from occurring.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

The Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011, making the Syrian refugee population the world’s largest group forcibly displaced from their country. At the end of 2018, there were 13 million refugees from Syria, accounting for more than half of the country’s total population. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (70 percent) and Jordan (90 percent) are living below the poverty line. Fortunately, a number of groups are stepping in to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Keep reading to learn more about these three nonprofits helping Syrian refugees.

3 Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

  1. Sunrise USA – Founded in 2011, Sunrise USA is a nonprofit organization focused on providing humanitarian assistance for Syrians in need whether they still live in the country or not. The group is focused on sustainable development in areas including education and health care.
    • Health Care With help from donations, Sunrise USA built a full-time clinic in the Tayba camp in Syria, as well as a clinic in Istanbul and a polyclinic in Rihanli, Turkey. The organization has also established 22 trauma care facilities in Syria.
    • Education As of 2018, around 5.8 million children and youth in Syria were in need of education assistance. About 2.1 million of them were out of school completely. Sunrise USA has built four schools and provided books and supplies to students and families around refugee camps. In 2015, Sunrise USA was a lead sponsor in the creation of the Al-Salam School which had 1,200 students.
    • Care for Orphans The number of Syrian orphans, both in Syria and neighboring countries, has increased to more than 1 million since 2011. Through Sunrise USA’s orphan sponsorship, hundreds of orphans have been provided with food, clothing, education and medicine.
  2. Doctors Without Borders (DWB) – Officially founded in 1971, the organization’s core belief is that “all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.” Here’s a look at DWB’s efforts to help Syrian refugees:
    • Jordan – In 2017, Jordan closed off the border connecting the country to Syria and in 2018 canceled all subsidized health care for Syrian refugees. Doctors Without Borders has three clinics in Irbid, Jordan that focus on non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death in the region. In 2018, the organization provided 69,000 outpatient consultations, 11,900 individual mental health consultations and 2,690 assisted births.
    • Lebanon – Shatila refugee camp in South Beirut is home to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese people living in poor and overcrowded conditions with minimal services. Doctors Without Borders has set up both a primary health care center and a women’s center inside the camp in 2013. The organization also launched a vaccination campaign around the camp, opened a mental health support branch in a clinic in Fneideq, offer family planning and mental health care services in the Burj-al-Barajneh refugee camp, and operate a care program in Ein-al-Hilweh refugee camp for patients with mobility issues.
  3. Concern Worldwide US – Founded in 1968, Concern Worldwide works in the world’s poorest countries to provide emergency response, education, water and sanitation, as well as help communities develop resilience to higher impacting climates. The organization works to help Syrian refugees in a few ways:
    • Lebanon – Concern Worldwide is not only focused on creating “collection centers,”–which are multi-family shelters–but also on improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the highly concentrated refugee areas of the country. The organization has provided assistance for 56,000 refugees and is also helping hundreds of children get access to education.
    • Syria – Since 2014, Concern Worldwide has worked in Syria to tackle waterborne diseases by installing generators and chlorinated water sources and also providing hygiene supplies. The organization also provides basic necessities to Syrians by distributing food baskets and for families with access to markets, food vouchers.

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Helping Syrian Refugees After Arriving
The Syrian refugee crisis has been ongoing for more than eight years since the civil war that started in 2011. More than 5 million people have fled Syria, while many more were displaced within Syria itself. Externally, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have the highest proportion of Syrian refugees in the world. Since refugees often try to live in urban areas for better employment opportunities, they frequently struggle with financial resources and end up living below the poverty line. In response, domestic and international organizations are helping Syrian refugees after arriving in each of these three countries.

Lebanon

As of June 30, 2016, Lebanon had the most Syrian refugees relative to its population, which was about 173 refugees per 1,000 people, or a total of 1,035,700. Lebanon also hosts a high number of refugees compared to its GDP, equating to 20 refugees per $1 million in GDP. While Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees, it is struggling to provide for them. There are around a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 70 percent of whom live below the poverty line. These refugees often have little to no financial resources, which leads them to live in crowded homes with other families in more than 2,100 communities.

One organization helping Syrian refugees in the country is the Lebanese Association for Development and Communication (LADC), which emerged to help both Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Its projects range from community-based projects to aid projects with both local and more than 500 international volunteers helping to establish more than 6,500 beneficiaries. One of its projects was the Paradise Wall, a community art project to smooth the integration process between 120 Syrian and Lebanese children by asking them to work together creatively to produce a wall full of designs.

Turkey

Turkey hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees – currently at 3.3 million. Authorities claim that there are more than 3 million Syrian refugees, but that they have not registered. This is because they see Turkey as a transit country or fear deportation. The fear of deportation comes from the fact that Turkey offers temporary protection status to Syrians instead of internationally-recognized refugee status. This increases the likelihood of Turkey deporting the refugees while avoiding the risk of receiving international renouncement for doing so. Most refugees attempt to settle in urban areas in these countries, as opposed to refugee camps where only 8 percent of registered Syrian refugees live.

In Turkey, the UNCHR, EU and WHO have come together to fund the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), which is a multi-regional organization that does a wide variety of work to help Syrian refugees after arriving in Turkey. It has many projects ranging from legal counseling to psycho-social support for children through playful activities. One of its projects titled Women and Girls’ Safe Space emerged to offer training sessions on women’s reproductive health.

Jordan

Jordan is proportionally the second-largest host of the Syrian refugees, sheltering about 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants as of 2016. Fifty-one percent of these refugees are children and 4 percent are elderly, meaning that 55 percent are dependents who rely on the remaining 45 percent of adult, working-age Syrian refugees. Consequently, more than 80 percent of them live under the poverty line.

To deal with this, the Jordanian government has initialized formal processes to help them escape poverty. In 2017 alone, the country issued 46,000 work permits so that Syrian refugees work. Recently, in collaboration with UNHCR, the International Labor Organization (ILO) established an employment center, The Zaatari Office of Employment, in the biggest camp for Syrian refugees. By August 2017, around 800 refugees benefited from this center by registering official work permits in place of one-month leave permits.

While the Syrian refugee crisis is still ongoing, it is important to note that many are helping Syrian refugees to settle and integrate into their host societies. Many countries from all over the world are starting to resettle the refugees within their borders to lift off the burden of poverty and overcrowding in certain areas. People often recognize Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for their willingness to take in large numbers of Syrian refugees, but this must not erase the work a variety of organizations are doing to help refugees after arriving in their new homes.

Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in Lebanon
According to the 2018 Lebanon Economic Vision report, Lebanon’s economy has been stuck in a vicious cycle. Despite periods of prosperity, the economy has been highly unpredictable. Any substantial monetary influx is mostly channeled into less productive sectors and into financing a fiscally irresponsible administration. Combined with high levels of corruption and minimal legislative productivity, the resulting unhealthy business environment, second-rate infrastructure and poor development of Lebanon come as no surprise. Job creation and productivity are limited, hurting employment rates and continuing an economic cycle where no incremental wealth is generated. But can things change? 

Power and Electricity

Lebanon has consistently ranked in the top four worst world nations in terms of quality of electricity supply. The country even ranked as the last in the world in this segment from 2012 to 2014. The main electricity producer, Electricité du Liban, is so inconsistent that citizens are forced to purchase a private generator or subscribe to a different network. This means paying the double cost for electricity, and those who cannot afford this are sometimes forced to go without it for hours. However, the Ministry of Economy has presented a plan called the National Economic Vision 2025 to reform this sector and other sectors once and for all. The country aims to shrink non-technical losses by 2025 and to become more reliant on sustainable and renewable resources which would seriously impact the development of Lebanon.

Health Care

The Lebanese health care system is considered to be the best in the region and on-par with European quality standards, a good indicator of the development of Lebanon. Citizens boast a high average life expectancy and low neonatal mortality rates, as around 7.5 percent of GDP is allocated to health care expenditures. Nonetheless, a significant portion of the Lebanese population remains uninsured because of low wages and high insurance rates.

This commonly forces citizens to pay out-of-pocket fees for medical services. Despite these factors, Lebanon is on track to improve coverage and performance under new governance by the Ministry of Public Health. Under this new leadership, the sector will be driven by evidence-based decisions for monetary compensation, meaning more fiscal support goes to hospitals and patients who need it.

Education in Lebanon

Lebanon continues to invest 7.6 percent of GDP on education, a sector that is growing faster than the base economy itself. The country has one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. Academia is the sixth largest employer in the country, with about 161,000 employees. Nonetheless, while Lebanese universities continue to hold a strong reputation, the performance of the primary and secondary education system is declining. To combat this, the National Economic Vision plan proposes updates and enforcement of curriculum standards at the primary and tertiary level. Promoting Lebanese universities to attract international students, and increasing technological investments into this sector are also key factors for this plan.

Agriculture

Lebanon has approximately 658,000 hectares of biodiverse agricultural land that ensures the production of more than 60 types of crops and over 10 livestock products. In 2016, the agricultural sector contributed about 3 percent to GDP, or about $1.5 billion. However, over the past decade, growth has been particularly stagnant. The use of land for low-value crops, competition from imports, poor infrastructure and development of Lebanon and limited support for good farming practices are all contributing factors. Nonetheless, a plan to prioritize crops with high export growth potential and to finance technology to modernize farming would offer this sector the stability it is lacking. A focus on sustainable water practices is also a key concern.

Industry

Industry is a top contributor to the Lebanese economy, accounting for 10 percent of GDP and employing around 194,000 people. However, between 2010 and 2016, the sector had a steep decline in productivity, reducing its contribution to GDP by about 2 percent every year. This devastating decline can be attributed mainly to the poor quality and consistency of power supply and an unhealthy business climate.

To combat this decline, plans to expand the international market by adopting and enforcing compliance with industry quality standards has been detailed by the National Economic Vision plan. In addition, investing in specific subsectors that play on the country’s strengths, like jewelry or pharmaceuticals, would help grow the sector as a whole and ensure redevelopment.

Lebanon has distinct economic and social characteristics that could successfully be harnessed for positive change. The National Economic Vision 2025 proposes not only tools for rectification, but also hope for a better future. Investing in infrastructure in Lebanon, enforcing new fiscal rules and increasing revenue would generate job opportunities and stabilize a once volatile economy. A proposed strategy and plan would offer Lebanon a chance to become the prosperous nation it once was and improve quality of life for all of its citizens.

Natalie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Lebanon
In 2011, it was estimated that approximately 17 percent of Lebanon’s population suffered from a mental illness of some kind. Among them, 90 percent of people went untreated. Mental health in Lebanon was not always a priority. However, with rising issues of mental illness, the Lebanese government is finding new ways to combat the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding mental health.

Role of Education in Understanding Mental Health

According to two researchers from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon, there is a distinct difference in the perception of mental illness depending on education. People who had higher educational attainment, as well as higher socioeconomic status, were more likely to have positive attitudes towards mentally ill patients. On the other hand, people who lacked education due to lower socioeconomic status had a negative outlook towards mental illness.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health and socioeconomic factors cannot be separated from each other. Socioeconomic factors can hinder educational attainment, and this may limit the lack of awareness people have about mental health.

Lack of awareness perpetuates the stigma around mental illness which stops people from receiving treatment. It even prevents them from talking about their feelings as they fail to be validated by others. Another reason why mental illness goes untreated is that many cannot afford it.

New Programmes to Help Improve Mental Health in Lebanon

The perception of mental health in Lebanon is changing and getting better. Historically, mental illness was considered something that could be solved only by the private sector. This meant that mental health care was reserved for those that could afford it.

Over the years, the government has realized that any person in need of help should be able to access mental health care. So, while mental health care will remain in part in the private sector, the health ministry in Lebanon is creating various programmes to help those who cannot afford it.

In 2014, the Lebanese health ministry created the National Mental Health Programme. This programme works with WHO, UNICEF and the International Medical Corps in order to help those with mental illness in Lebanon. It aims to incorporate mental health into general medicine more completely. This will hopefully help eradicate some of the bias that exists. It will help make mental health part of the discourse.

The programme also aims to help vulnerable populations in Lebanon such as refugees, people in prison and survivors of war and torture. This will be a huge help to these communities because it will allow them to have access to mental health care which they did not have before. It will create the perception that mental health deserves to be taken care of.

The National Mental Health Programme organized events such as “Time to Talk” in 2018. It was a way to directly combat incorrect perceptions about mental health by simply talking about mental health under ordinary contexts. Another similar event was “Depression: Let’s Talk About It to Get Out of It”. It was held in 2017 in order to discuss rising depression rates and help people heal. “My Mental Health is My Right” which was organized in 2014 aimed to enforce the fact that mental health in Lebanon is important and that every person has a right to receive treatment.

Thus, with such advanced programmes and new developments, the future of mental health care in Lebanon looks bright. It is important to remove the stigma surrounding mental health to improve people’s well being and foster a healthier and happier society.

– Isabella Niemeyer
 Photo: Unsplash

Refugees in Lebanon

While the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the Middle East continue to make international headlines, the refugee crisis caused by these conflicts has slowly faded from the public eye. Many countries around the world are now focused on more immediate internal problems. For Syria’s neighboring countries, though, the refugee crisis continues to be an impactful part of their society.

Lebanon is one of these countries. This country shares most of its land border with Syria, and this made it an obvious place for war refugees to flee. The government has allowed many to remain in the country. Estimates say that there are still more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and this is only part of the country’s refugee population.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Life for Syrian refugees in Lebanon today is complicated, to say at least. While they are allowed to stay within the country, a combination of unfriendly government policies and heavily-strained infrastructure mean that few can maintain a high quality of life. Residency laws are difficult to navigate, leaving many fearful of arrest and open to exploitation.

Good work is hard to find, and 71 percent of Syrian refugees live below the country’s poverty line. This lack of financial resources helps explain why more than 200,000 refugee children were kept out of school in 2016. This education gap will only lead to more economic vulnerability in the long term.

Compounding these difficulties is the legitimate strain that 1.5 million refugees put on a Lebanese population that totals only six million. The Lebanese residents of some host communities are outnumbered by refugees. Since the start of the crisis, government spending and debt have risen while GDP has dropped and expenses have mounted. The economic troubles have heightened perception of refugees as a drain on Lebanese society and many want them to return to Syria. Of course, many Syrians would like to return home as well, especially given the conditions in Lebanon.

With the war continuing to progress, though, the United Nations does not recommend that refugees return. President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and his government continue to make returning difficult even for those that would like to take the chance. Beyond the obvious physical danger of the ongoing conflict, a strict military draft and the threat of property seizure for the many refugees who are left without formal documentation for their homes are harsh deterrents for many people.

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

It’s important to note that Syrians are not the only refugees in Lebanon. A population of around 270,000 Palestinians has settled in a few dozen U.N. camps around the country. Many of these people (or even parents of these people) have been in Lebanon since the Palestinian war in 1948. Today, these camps are essentially considered permanent settlements, and their longevity is part of what has inspired a more aggressive governmental push to ensure that Syrian refugees are only settled temporarily.

Palestinians in Lebanon have always been considered a separate legal class, with restricted access to certain public facilities, educational paths, careers and job opportunities. Many are forced to take low-paying, informal jobs.

The Syrian crisis has made life even more difficult for them, as both refugee groups must now compete for the same undesirable jobs. In 2015, 23 percent of the Palestinian population in Lebanon was unemployed. That number was only 8 percent before the crisis. Conditions are even worse for the 33,000 Palestinians who were living in Syria and have since become refugees in Lebanon as 93 percent of these people are reliant on U.N. aid as their primary source of livelihood.

International Aid for Refugees

While international news has largely moved on from the crisis, international aid continues to be involved in Lebanon and other similarly-strained countries. Thousands of families receive aid from U.N. groups, nonprofit organizations and other groups like the World Bank, to supplement governmental support and their own limited personal resources.

These sources of aid can be effective at reducing poverty, but many have been geared at short term solutions so far. As budgets and international aid dry up, support for the refugees in Lebanon will likely be most effective if it focuses on the long term effects. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are hoping to improve living conditions by building new homes and renovating old buildings as well as water and sanitation facilities. The UNHCR also has plans to shore up Lebanese infrastructure as part of the international effort.

However, with the instability in the region and the ongoing pressure to return to Syria and Palestine mounting, permanent solutions may not be a winning political idea in Lebanon. Time will tell, but in the meantime, it is vitally important not to forget the millions of people- Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese and others- who are still impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis.

– Josh Henreckson

Photo: Flickr

ASU Global
In the modern, globalized world, public research institutions are essential to innovation, knowledge creation and international development. With these functions at the forefront, research institutions can assist The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 1, which is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

Currently, 11 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, defined by The World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per day. Despite its persistence, poverty has decreased drastically since 1990, when 35 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Global poverty reduction has been aided by the efforts of higher educational institutions like Arizona State University’s International Development team.

ASU’s International Development Team

Arizona State University (ASU), a public research university, is one of the only U.S. universities that actively pursues funding opportunities in the international aid landscape. As part of the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, ASU’s International Development team works to identify and provide solutions for complex challenges facing the developing world.

Stephen Feinson, associate vice president for ASU’s International Development team, told The Borgen Project that the primary objective of ASU’s International Development team is to, “[advance] a new model for university engagement with the developing world that collaboratively drives solutions to great development challenges through partnerships with local universities, governments, the private sector, and non-governmental entities.”

ASU International Development team is able to support and advance international development efforts with the assistance of its funding partners. Donors include USAID, U.S. Department of State, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank. ASU also partners with implementing firms, such as Chemonics, Creative Associates, DAI, and IESC, and collaborates with over 100 universities worldwide to advance innovative solutions for the developing world.

ASU’s International Development team is currently involved in four development projects worldwide. These projects are:

  1. The US-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy (USPCAS-E) project was launched in 2015 and received an $18 million investment from USAID. In partnership with Pakistan’s National University for Science and Technology (NUST) and University of Engineering and Technology (UET), USPCAS-E works to create an energy research agenda for energy needs in Pakistan. Feinson told The Borgen Project, “to date, more than 136 students and faculty researchers […] have participated in the exchange program at ASU and subcontractor Oregon State University’s research labs working on energy-related projects.” Furthermore, “Over 30 master’s students have graduated from the center and have entered the energy workforce equipped to make an impact in Pakistan’s energy sector,” Feinson added.
  2. The Holistic Water Solutions project in Jordan and Lebanon received $2 million from USAID and serves refugee host communities by providing potable water to communities and household. “The project’s multifaceted approach includes community water desalination and purification kiosks equipped with on-grid/off-grid capacity, household air-to-water technology, entrepreneurial training for women and water demand management,” said Feinson.
  3. The Building University-Industry Learning and Development Through Innovation and Technology (BUILD-IT) project in Vietnam is the third major ASU project in Vietnam. Feinson told The Borgen Project that BUILD-IT is supported by USAID and aims to identify and respond to gaps in Vietnam’s technical workforce as well as build female empowerment.
  4. The Global Development Research (GDR) Scholars project allows ASU to support additional Research and Innovation Fellows through fundraising and cost sharing. Through The GDR Scholars Program, ASU provides fellowships to graduate students, encouraging collaboration and use-inspired research to improve conditions regarding The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Feinson told The Borgen Project, “since its inception in 2015, the program has placed 70 scholars in 25 USAID priority countries [where they] worked to identify and conduct projects in USAID-defined sectors related to health, education, economic security, biodiversity, human trafficking, gender, supply chain, energy, water, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The Goal of ASU’s International Development Team

According to Feinson, “ASU aims to become a global center for interdisciplinary research, discovery and development by 2025.” To reach this goal, ASU International Development team serves to establish ASU as a trusted partner for USAID, other funding agencies and donors, implementing firms and university partners.

The goals of ASU’s International Development team are to advance the New American University Model in the context of international development. Feinson said this model “offers ideas distinctly suited to the developing world, advancing use-inspired research that addresses epochal development challenges and scalable solutions tailored to the needs of developing countries.”

The efforts of ASU’s International Development team have already begun to make a difference in developing countries. For instance, their past successes include projects such as the Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) in Vietnam, Liberia, Guyana, Kenya and South Pacific Island Nations; the India Support for Teacher Education Program (In-STEP) in India; the Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program (HEEAP) in Vietnam; and the Solucion El Salvador (SolucionES) in El Salvador.

The United Nations Development Programme is working hard to eradicate poverty. With an increasing number of U.S. higher educational institutions taking note of and emulating the successes of ASU’s International Development team, The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 1 of eradicating extreme poverty can become reality.

– Kara Roberts

Photo: Flickr