Inflammation and stories on Lebanon

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
In an essay on humanitarian purpose, Ilana Feldman expressed a sentiment that many humanitarian workers share. She expressed hopelessness in her ability to alter the lives of suffering Palestinians. She believes that this despondency has led many humanitarian workers to promote endurance and resilience within a harsh reality. Instead of a determination to alter this reality, Palestinian refugees must endure it, including those in Lebanon. This hopelessness was not as prevalent in 1947.

The Nakba

Between 1947 and 1949, the flight of Palestinians reached staggering numbers. By 1949, approximately 750,000 Palestinians had fled Israel. According to the Palestinian narrative, these refugees underwent forcible expulsion. In fact, evidence exists to suggest this. One Israeli intelligence document estimates that 75% of Palestinians fled as a result of Zionist military action. Israelis claim otherwise.

Their flight followed the U.N. partition plan. In 1947, because of increasing feuds between the Palestinian, British and Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, the British decided to end its mandate over Palestine and transfer control to the U.N. general assembly. The U.N. chose to partition Palestine into two separate states. The Jews would receive around 56% of the land, and the Arabs would receive around 43%.

The majority of Arabs, however, experienced disillusionment with this outcome, as their population outweighed Jews by more than half a million. Thus, the ensuing war led to what Arabs term the nakba or the catastrophe and what Zionists term the Israeli War for Independence. This nomenclature highlights the contrasting narratives of the Palestinians-Israeli conflict.

After the Israeli victory in 1948, many of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees fled to neighboring countries. One of these countries was Lebanon. Today, the number of Palestinian refugees has risen to approximately 5 million. As many as 476,000 reside in Lebanon and are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The Weight of Economic Decline on Palestinians

On August 4, 2020,  catastrophe plagued Lebanon. A port in Beirut housing ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, exploded. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 178 people have died and 300,000 people are homeless as a result of the explosion. These conspicuous hardships accompany economic decline.

Approximately half the population lives below the poverty line, and the Lebanese currency has dropped by 80%. Before the explosion and the rise of COVID-19, the debt was nearly $80 billion, the third-highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the world. Some ascribed this economic crisis to corruption. Others believed it was the vestiges of the 15-year Lebanese civil war. Today, the debt is $93.4 billion, an 8.9% increase from February 2020.

Such circumstances have disproportionately affected Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The financial crisis has fostered a decline in services provided by the UNRWA, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA). For years, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon could not obtain employment in as many as 39 different professions.

Today, the financial crisis has bred unemployment for the few Palestinians fortunate enough to receive employment in Lebanon. In conjunction with inadequate electricity and a lack of clean water, the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have also experienced a spike in depression.

Conclusion

Despite grim circumstances, various organizations—the Lebanese Red Cross, the Lebanese Food Bank, Impact Lebanon and the Amel Association–have raised millions of dollars to assuage the economic and health-related impacts of the explosion. Additionally, the UNRWA is ameliorating the spread of COVID-19. Efforts range from regular sterilization of camps to education on the virus for Palestinian refugees. Much more can occur to acknowledge the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and the opportunity to return to their self-proclaimed homeland is still a distant hope. But these efforts do not simply contribute to endurance for Palestinian refugees. They do not amount to a default outcome. Though they should feel unsatisfying to any ambitious humanitarian worker, they still render real-world outcomes for Palestinian refugees. Amid growing hopelessness, that is nonetheless something to praise.

Blake Dysinger
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Corruption in LebanonEvents surrounding the massive blast that decimated the cosmopolitan city of Beirut have sparked outrage regarding poverty and corruption in Lebanon. The conclusion that many journalists and analysts have come to is that the bomb that went off on the Port of Beirut was an accident due to negligence by a corrupt, inefficient and sectarian government. As a result of the blast, 200 people died, many more were injured and 300,000 became homeless. Not to mention the economic devastation to Lebanon, with an estimated cost of $15 billion in losses to the entire country. The bombing has damaged an already strained healthcare system that is dealing with a global pandemic, causing a humanitarian crisis. This has sparked massive outrage in the form of protests taking over government ministries, calling for a revolution and a complete overhaul of the political system. However, this catastrophe only represents the tip of the iceberg, as we will see how the problem of corruption (and its link to poverty) has been mounting in Lebanon.

The Troubles Underneath

Lebanon scores 28 out of 100 (0 being highly corrupt and 100 being least corrupt) in the Corruption Perception Index. This is in many ways due to the system of patronage. The country is ruled by a patronage system in which the political elite exchange political support for jobs, contracts and other benefits and resources distributed by sectarian division. Political rule is inherited through sectarian lines as the government and legislative seats are filled through the use of sectarian networks and contacts. The result is a political system made up of three parties that cannot be challenged by independent actors. Not to mention, a system with no accountability and massive inefficiencies.

Maya Terro, co-founder and executive director at FoodBlessed, spoke with The Borgen Project, stating “in Lebanon, the effects of corruption permeate every corner of public life.” She went on to explain that corruption is widespread at all levels of Lebanese society. The Lebanese public tends to view both the political institutions, such as political parties and parliament, and government institutions, such as public administration and the police, as “the most corrupt institutions of the country.” Terro then expanded on the economic life in Lebanon, pointing out that corruption, as well as a lack of proper infrastructure and bureaucracy, leads to disincentivizing of conducting economic activity in the country. Businesses are usually faced with a weak judiciary system that is subject to petty bribes as well as political interference.

Private industry is also hampered by an unreliable and unaccountable police force, public services covered in bribes and sectarian patronage. This scenario shows further problems with a public procurement system filled with favoritism. Protecting whistleblowers is one of the ways to combat this corruption. Unfortunately, a report from Transparency International in 2015 did indicate a lack of major laws protecting whistleblowers and access to information from the government, which are important when investigating corruption.

The Correlation with Corruption and Poverty

Poverty and corruption in Lebanon are highly linked. As the country is embroiled in corruption, half of its population lives under the poverty line. The top economic 1% in Lebanon owns a quarter of the wealth, with 0.1% making the same amount of income as the bottom 50%. The unemployment rate is a staggering 30%. In her interview with The Borgen Project, Terro pointed out that income inequality is a major drive for corruption. Those who are very well off are incentivized to engage in corruption to further their wealth while impoverished communities are motivated by poverty to make a living. She further explains, “I can say from my own observations and based on scientific research is that the wealthy have both greater motivation and more opportunity to engage in corruption, whereas the poor are more vulnerable to extortion and less able to monitor and hold the rich and powerful accountable as inequality increases.”

Additionally, “at the institutional level, economic loss and inefficiency are further exacerbated by corruption. Corruption also exacerbates poverty by creating a state of unequal opportunities in which advantages arise only for those within a corrupt clientelistic network,” says Terro. The power-sharing patronage system has caused further poverty and corruption in Lebanon to the point where a bomb blast occurred in the middle of an economic crisis that the country was experiencing.

Drivers of Change

When asked about her view on the roles of NGOs and aid organizations such as USAID have in helping with the issue of poverty and corruption in Lebanon, Terro said “it doesn’t fight it much because institutions like these only deal with the effects, they don’t and can’t do much when it comes to the root causes of corruption in Lebanon, which are many-fold indeed and vary sometimes from one institution to another and from one person to another.”

However, it is worth highlighting certain actions that NGOs have taken in tackling poverty and corruption in Lebanon. For one, Transparency International engaged in an investigative and documentary campaign that highlighted pollution of the riverside in the Bar Elias town and the sickness it was causing the locals after the government ignored the problem. Advocacy by NGOs has partly helped create the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is composed of experienced professionals independent and inexperienced in politics. When asked about her view on what’s the best way to tackle poverty and corruption in Lebanon, Terro said “you need to start with the root causes and beyond filing reports and media — shaming the corrupt, not much has been done beyond that. What is needed is action, not more reports.” This action was manifested in the October Revolution and recent protests from cross-sectarian divisions demanding radical change to the political system. Finally, there is the mounting pressure that is coming from the international community (especially from Emmanuel Macron) in forcing the government of Lebanon to implement necessary reformations to receive necessary foreign aid.

Today, the country is currently going into uncertainty after the resignation of the designated MP Mustafa Adib after it became clear that Iran-backed militias are hijacking the French initiative to reform the country. Following Adib’s resignation, former Prime Minister and billionaire Saad Al Hariri took the position after being ousted from that position a year ago. The political class seems incapable of implementing a reformation that would topple the system it has put into power. It appears that the three factors showing hope to tackle poverty and corruption in Lebanon are the anger and revolt of the Lebanese people, external pressures by actors like Macron and civil society groups that have previously filled the vacuum left by the government. For example, the environmental NGO Al-Shouf Cedar Society, and the majors of different districts are in cooperation in the management of Al-Shouf Ceder Nature Reserve. When it comes to aiding refugees from Syria, Lebanese NGOs, which are mostly funded by the U.N., tend to be the primary provider of aid. After the blast in Beirut, three women affected by the explosion started the grassroots community organization Khaddit Beirut and identified 100 local businesses that it aims to help, thereby creating 1,600 jobs. The group aims to harness the local energy of volunteers to aid the recovery of the city after the tragedy happened.

Following the Beirut explosion, NGOs and the Lebanese government are highlighting poverty and corruption in Lebanon and are actively working to address the root causes. However, there is still much to be done to alleviate the political corruption in Lebanon. Civil society groups and Lebanese NGOs are critical actors in reforming political action.

Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Lebanon
According to a U.K. study, 10-15% of Lebanese residents have a disability. In Lebanon, like many places around the world, a direct link between disability and poverty exists. Disabled individuals in Lebanon are less likely to complete elementary school and more likely to face unemployment and poverty than the abled population. As a result, disability is one of the leading causes of institutionalization in Lebanon. Here is some information about disability and poverty in Lebanon.

In the Context of COVID-19

The Lebanese government has recently come under fire for providing disabled individuals with little, conflicting or no information regarding the virus. Aya Majzoub, a Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that “This exclusion is robbing people with disabilities of potentially life-saving information and services that they need to weather this crisis.” Restricting access to this information limits the ability of those with disabilities to social distance and access resources, as they must rely on word-of-mouth to make important safety decisions. This puts Lebanon’s disabled population at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, simply due to the fact that they do not have the information necessary to protect themselves.

However, even if the Lebanese government decided to give the disabled population accurate information, there is no guarantee that they would have the technology necessary to receive it. Although international law dictates that governments must use technologies such as interactive voice response and TTY/TDD to provide information in accessible formats, not everyone may be able to afford the technology necessary to receive those messages.

UNICEF and other NGOs have produced accessible materials for people with disabilities to gain accurate information regarding COVID-19.

Medical Care

People with disabilities in Lebanon cannot always access medical care. In an American University of Beirut study of disabled Lebanese citizens and refugees living in Lebanon, 78.5% said that financial ability was a barrier to health care.

Arceniel, a Lebanese nonprofit founded in response to the high number of disabilities caused by the Lebanese Civil Wars, provides pay-what-you-can health care. Specializing in disability care, the organization provides mobility equipment, specialized therapies, clinician visits and other resources.

Education

By law, all government buildings, including public schools must be accessible. However, a study found that only five of all Lebanese public schools were accessible. As a result, 85% of individuals with disabilities did not complete the Lebanese equivalent of elementary school.

During this time of working and studying from home, children with cognitive disabilities who rely on in-person learning to grasp material have experienced a significant impact. Fista, a Lebanese organization that works with children and adults with cognitive disabilities, moved its entire program online. Children with cognitive disabilities can now access instructors and therapists to continue their education toward bright futures.

Workplace Inequity

Law 220, a hopeful measure from the year 2000, set a quota for the percentage of disabled employees in a company. However, the lack of physical accessibility to most Lebanese buildings makes meeting that quota improbable, if not impossible. Moreover, the government rarely enforces Law 220’s quota at all, leaving prospective disabled employees with few employment options. As a result, 74% of the disabled population does not have employment.

According to the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU)’s estimate, of disabled individuals who are capable of working, only 26% have employment. The union seeks to change that. LPHU offers on-the-job training, job placement, advocacy, business development services and counseling to those with physical disabilities.

Disability access is an issue in all countries around the world. Although the Lebanese government has taken legislative actions to improve the lives of the disabled population, enforcement of these laws for schools, workplaces and government outreach programs is lacking. The Lebanese government can and must do better to create accessible environments for its disabled population and reduce the link between disability and poverty in Lebanon.

– Monica McCown
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Lebanon
Human trafficking in Lebanon is rampant and requires reform. Someone once asked Paul, a volunteer for the Catholic Church in Beirut, Lebanon, how he knows that most female prostitutes are trafficking victims? Paul answered that when he attempted to help a trafficking victim contact an NGO, her captors assaulted him.

The Situation

Paul is just one of the many workers on the frontlines fighting against human trafficking in Lebanon. Lebanon’s government is improving its work to stop human trafficking, but Lebanon remains on Tier 2 according to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report. The Tier 2 standing means that Lebanon has not met the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking.

Human traffickers target certain groups such as Syrian refugees, illegal migrants, domestic workers and women with artiste visas. Employers lure in workers and artistes under the guise of employment and then withhold their wages or passports to control them. Meanwhile, migrants and refugees come into the country with nothing leaving them open to capture. Poverty affects these targeted groups making it easier for employers and traffickers to control them. Lebanon has struggled with human trafficking because of various problems, including its past legislation and misguided judicial system.

Human Trafficking Issues in Need of Reform

  1. Lebanon’s human trafficking network is immense. The International Security Forces (ISF) and General Directorate of General Security (GDS) commented that even traffickers further down the chain of command contact more extensive organized networks. Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and the town of Jounieh are where most human trafficking victims end up. Even though the ISF was able to identify 29 trafficking victims in 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) believes the number of victims is in the thousands.
  2. The country’s laws place a significant strain on the victims because women can work as licensed prostitutes, but Lebanon’s government has not supplied licenses since the 1970s. However, after 1990, the country made secret prostitution, or prostitution without a license, illegal. Foreign women come to Lebanon to work as dancers in nightclubs under an artiste visa. The visa’s terms restrict the women to the hotels they live in and give nightclub owners power over the women allowing them to withhold their wages and passports. Traffickers also exploit these women through physical or sexual abuse.
  3. Ashraf Rifi, who served as minister of justice between 2014 and 2016, and ISF director-general from 2005 to 2013, commented that Lebanon needs to change how it combats human trafficking. Rifi went on to mention how there is corruption at high levels and even corruption within the ISF. In 2018, authorities arrested Johnny Haddad, the head of an ISF department, on charges of corruption involving prostitution networks. The organization’s ethics committee placed him under investigation. If anti-trafficking organizations’ leaders experience compromise, fighting traffickers becomes even more difficult than it was before.
  4. For trafficking victims in Lebanon, the courts frequently show no remorse. After studying 34 different trafficking cases, lawyer Ghida Frangieh concluded a double standard in the judge’s treatment concerning prostitution and begging. Forced begging cases nearly always received the label of being a trafficking case, while in the case of prostitution, the judge would frequently find there was some level of consent. The problem here is that the U.N. Convention on Human Trafficking stated that consent is irrelevant in trafficking cases because traffickers could beat or kill victims if they do not consent.

Even though Lebanon struggles with human trafficking, it is making progress in combatting these human traffickers. Lebanon has focused on improving its identification of trafficking victims and bringing shadowy trafficking networks into the light.

How Lebanon is Fighting Against Human Trafficking

  1. In 2016, Lebanon shut down Chez Maurice, the largest human trafficking network in the country. Chez Maurice held more than 75 Syrian women in a house with blacked-out windows, only allowed to leave to have abortions or receive treatment for venereal disease. The organization lured the Syrian refugees by offering them jobs, such as restaurant work, and then imprisoned them. While there, the captors sexually and psychologically abused the women. After discovering the human trafficking network, authorities took those responsible into custody, and they are currently awaiting trial.
  2. Lebanon’s government has yet to completely satisfy the minimum requirements for human trafficking’s eradication, but it is making significant strides to change that. The government increased investigations into trafficking cases and improved its ability to identify trafficking victims. For example, in 2016, the ISF only investigated 20 human trafficking cases, while in 2018, it investigated 45 cases. This change may show an improvement in identifying trafficking victims. Lebanon’s government has improved its relationships with NGOs such as Legal Agenda or Kafa, leading to more effective cooperation with screening possible victims in government-controlled migrant detention facilities.
  3. The government has done great work investigating potential human trafficking cases, but it still has room for improvement. The GDS reported 124 of 167 cases, which ended with a referral to authorities for investigation, giving back pay to workers and repatriation for migrant workers. The MOJ reported prosecutor referred about 38 cases to judges for further analysis leading to 69 alleged traffickers’ prosecutions involving different types of human trafficking. Since numerous cases have overloaded Lebanon’s judicial system, it took time to resolve these cases, but the system settled them, nonetheless.

Lebanon is steadily improving in its fight against human trafficking. Human trafficking in Lebanon is still happening, but its people continue to work towards eradicating it.

– Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Two young women in the Middle East2020 has taught the world a series of valuable lessons. Still, one that strikes most potent is the importance of women’s presence in critical fields, such as conflict resolution. For years this issue has received a poor reputation for ineffectiveness and persistent recidivism, specifically due to continued violence. However, the recent inclusion of women has changed this and transformed the field as we know it. Since 2016, women’s inclusion in conflict resolution has shown a 64% prevention rate for failed peace negotiations and a 35% increase in likeability for long-term peace.

While women are beginning to shine on the world stage, there are still conflict-ridden regions where they are kept away from the negotiating table. One of these regions is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Conflict in MENA

In addition to the US’ recent departure under the Trump Administration, the MENA has been riddled with conflict. There are longstanding ideological tensions between Saudi-Arabia and Iran. A bloody civil war in Yemen and the recent Assad-Putin take over of Syria. Libya is becoming a failed state and more terrorist organizations are rising to power.

This is an integral time for women to be included in conflict resolution, as said previous conflicts will require new models of engagement and unique perspectives. If women are to achieve an equal socioeconomic standing to men in the MENA, now is the time for action.

Overview of Progress

Since the early 2000s, women have begun playing an active role in conflict resolution. A prominent example is the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Movement. In both the first and second Liberian Civil Wars, the movement’s women hosted communal activities, such as prayer gatherings, to unite the warring Christian and Muslim populations. Eventually, they gained so much momentum that they advanced their organization to more direct advocacy and activism. This was during a time of rampant sexual violence and the murders of child soldiers. In 2005, the women helped ensure one of the nation’s first free and fair elections, which resulted in the first female African president.

Another way in which women have fought for change in the MENA is through women-led nonprofits. Take, for instance, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assitance (CEWLA). Under current dictator Abdel Al-Sissi, Egypt has faced a series of religious violence, economic corruption, and denial of fundamental human rights. Nevertheless, since 2013, CEWLA has worked with local grassroots organizations in Egypt to promote female rights. It has fought several legal battles to improve ongoing “legal, social, economic and cultural rights.”

In addition to inter-regional violence, mass immigration and displacement in MENA has resulted in severe economic losses. In response to such conflict, female entrepreneurs in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine banded together to form Ruwwad. Ruwwad is a community engagement organization that focuses on providing women with education, income generation methods, and social justice.

Nonetheless, even when it comes to complex matters such as Intra-State Conflict, women have shown up to unite deeply divided communities, often struggling with severe poverty. The Wajir Association for Women’s Peace embodies the said fight for justice. The Association is a group of local women in Wajir, Kenya. They lead conflict resolution initiatives between the clans’ Elders and the at-risk youth. Wajir’s women’s power has even reached the desks of local parliamentary offices. Nationwide reforms have begun to take aim at resolving much of the turmoil occurring in this region as a result of these efforts.

A Plan for the Future

While women’s leadership in the MENA is far from perfect, there have been massive improvements over the years. This provides an ample opportunity to transform the region. Analysts have found that Women need political and economic backing from international organizations in order to help promote their localized mediation initiatives and garner stronger support for future peacebuilding. Bills such as the Girls Lead Act, currently being negotiated in Congress, is a step in the right direction and will help develop future female leaders in at-risk developing countries. The MENA region has seen conflict and ethnic violence for decades, but when we empower women, we empower change.

Juliette Reyes
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Lebanon
Living through a history saturated with civil war, economic corruption and political instability, Lebanon’s people witnessed some of the country’s darkest hours. However, 2020 has been one of the biggest challenges for Lebanon, as it has had to deal with both the internal collapse of its government and the external threat of COVID-19 — contributing to one of the worst economic crises in decades. Here is some information about the crisis in Lebanon.

Poverty in Lebanon

Today, the population sits at a 55% poverty rate — meaning that 2.7 million people are living on less than $14 a day, and an estimated 1.7 million of those people live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. The current crisis in Lebanon has left the country paralyzed, but recently, the World Bank announced the Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN), which would provide $246 million of direct cash assistance and social services. Estimates have determined that 786,000 vulnerable Lebanese would benefit from this program. Moreover, the World Bank has also recently approved a reallocation of $34 million to assist with the distribution of vaccines through its Lebanon Health Resilience Project. This would provide an opportunity to recover from the devastating effects that COVID-19 has had on the already precarious state of Lebanon.

The Past That Haunts Lebanon’s Present

After the civil war, which lasted from 1975 until 1990, the country was in disarray and has since seen little improvement. Hezbollah, a Shiah Islamist political party that has heavily involved itself with Lebanon’s government since the 1990s, has experienced accusations of corruption and mismanagement of the state. Estimates have determined that its corrupt deals have resulted in a loss of $100 billion within Lebanon’s banking system.

This dysfunction culminated in the uprising of 2019 when the government proposed to impose taxes on all WhatsApp calls that citizens made from Lebanon. On top of an explosion at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which cost the lives of 200 people and $3 billion of infrastructural damage, in 2020, the crisis in Lebanon resulted in a 19.2% decline in the country’s GDP. Two prime minister resignations later and on the verge of famine, Lebanon’s own government has left the country’s people to fend for themselves amidst a global pandemic.

The World Bank’s Contribution

The objective of the EESN is to put a stop to the rise of extreme poverty rates in Lebanon by scaling up the Government of Lebanon’s National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP), which receives financial and technical assistance from the World Bank. The EESN will contribute to the existing NPTP, as it currently provides cash transfers to vulnerable Lebanese individuals, covers costs of education and provides other forms of support to disabled and elderly Lebanese peoples. In addition, it aims to consider the crisis in Lebanon within the context of COVID-19. With over 250,000 total cases and approximately 5,000 daily confirmed cases, immediate relief is necessary for long-term economic recovery.

 The project will include the following:

  • $206 million will provide cash transfers to the most vulnerable with electronic cards.
  • $23 million will go towards educational costs.
  • $10 million will improve the quality of social services such as the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) and Social Development Centers (SDCs).
  • $9 million will help to create and support social safety net services such as the National Social Registry, which will respond to future shocks to Lebanon.

The World Bank’s further initiative to launch the Lebanon Health Resilience Project on January 21, 2021, will aim to alleviate the ongoing crisis in Lebanon through widespread vaccine distributions. It projects that vaccinations will arrive by early February 2021 and will provide vaccines to over 2 million people.

Beyond the Rubble

While the Lebanese government is in shambles with the rubble of Beirut, Lebanon’s people are continuing to see through this dark hour of history. The efforts of organizations such as the World Bank have demonstrated that although Lebanon must rebuild its foundations, the rest of the world will not abandon its people.

– Alessandra Parker
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Lebanon
Conflict has impacted Lebanon over the past few decades, including civil war, revolution and occupation. As a result, many children in Lebanon grow up and live in harsh conditions. Here are five things to know about child poverty in Lebanon.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Lebanon

  1. Poverty by the Numbers: There is severe inequality in Lebanon as 5-10% of the population receives more than half of the total national income. Around 25-30% of Lebanese people live in poverty. Refugees and other populations face an even higher rate of poverty. For all of these groups, families with children are more likely to live in poverty. Current estimates say 1.4 million children in Lebanon are living in poverty. This affects their ability to receive an education, adequate nutrition and water and future standard of living and employment.
  2. Education: An estimated 10% of children in Lebanon do not attend school. The schools that do exist are low quality in both education and the physical state of the buildings. The poor education in Lebanon causes less young people to acquire jobs in technical or competitive fields. Armed and violent conflicts in Lebanon have also damaged school buildings. Furthermore, children’s access to education is hindered by the 1925 Nationality Law, in which only children with Lebanese fathers receive citizenship. If a child’s only parent is their mother or the father is not Lebanese, public schools will not admit them until all other Lebanese children are enrolled.
  3. Child Labor: Lebanon has lower rates of child labor than many of the surrounding countries, but still 7% of children work. Many of these children work to support their families, though their salaries are often low. Boys often work in factories or agriculture which have inhumane and very harsh working conditions. Lebanon has signed on to the ILO’s Convention on Child Labor, but this has not decreased child labor.
  4. Refugee Children: Lebanon has a very high number of refugees living inside its borders because of its geographical location. These refugees come from Iraq, Syrian, Palestine and more. The majority of refugees live in extreme poverty. Refugee children often work in poor conditions to make money. Many also suffer from mental health problems due to their trauma. In refugee camps, children face many dangers, including domestic violence, drug use and minimal health care and basic hygiene. Lebanon has not ratified the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and does little to protect these people living inside the country. The country also lacks the resources to address children’s mental health problems, but NGOs are working to provide more medical help inside the refugee camps.
  5. Reducing Child Poverty: The Government of Lebanon launched the National Poverty Targeting Program in 2011. The World Bank provided technical and financial assistance to this program to provide a safety net for families living in extreme poverty. Families are chosen based on level of food security, labor force status and other variables. This program currently helps 43,000 households, although more than 150,000 families are in extreme poverty and more than 350,000 qualify are in poverty. The families benefiting from the program receive a “Hayat Card,” which gives them access to free health care and educational services, and the poorest receive a debit card for food.

Children in Lebanon are still heavily affected by poverty, whether it is through health care, education or labor. Refugee children and girls are particularly vulnerable as they lack basic rights under law. Although strides have been made in recent years to eradicate poverty, the government and other organizations must prioritize addressing child poverty in Lebanon.

Claire Brady
Photo: Flickr

3RF: Helping Lebanon Recover from the Beirut Explosion
The United Nations has announced a new plan to support Lebanon after Beirut’s deadly explosion in August 2020. Operating in conjunction with the World Bank and the European Union, the U.N. has named its program 3RF, short for “Reform, Recovery[ ] and Reconstruction Framework.” Lebanon has long struggled under the weight of political and economic crises, which the explosion in its capital city only exacerbated. Therefore, 3RF comes as an effort from the international community to improve conditions in Lebanon over the long term.

An Explosion in the Capital

Shortly after 6 p.m. local time on August 4, 2020, a colossal explosion at Beirut’s port sent shockwaves rippling through the city. The disaster killed 200 people, injured thousands more and rendered approximately 300,000 individuals—out of the city’s total population of 2 million—homeless and destitute.

Officials have since identified the cause of the explosion as 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate, a chemical found in fertilizer. A welding project in one of the port’s warehouses sparked a fire that triggered the blast.

Shockwaves blew out windows at Beirut International Airport five miles away, and scientists from the United States Geological Survey reported that these equated to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. Besides destroying commercial buildings and residential properties, the explosion also incapacitated three major hospitals and more than 24 clinics. Victims flooded the remaining healthcare centers, placing further strain on a system already contending with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic Crisis

Unfortunately, Lebanon was beset by problems before the August 2020 explosion. Public discontent has simmered for years, stoked by political corruption, economic hardship and a government struggling to provide services like reliable power and clean drinking water.

In October 2019, following a foreign currency shortage and the eruption of major wildfires, the Lebanese government announced new taxes in a bid to raise desperately needed revenue. However, the Lebanese government scrapped the plans after large-scale protests gripped the country.

Then, after lockdown measures underwent implementation in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, Lebanon’s economic crisis worsened. As businesses had to fire employees or place them on furlough without pay, prices on basic goods rose to prohibitory levels. In May 2020, former Prime Minister Hassan Diab wrote in The Washington Post that much of the country’s population had ceased buying meat and fresh produce and that soon people would be unable to afford bread.

Poverty and Corruption

The blast in Beirut has significantly compounded the hardships that Lebanese people have faced. Many residents within the financial capital have experienced trauma, including older citizens for whom the explosion brought up memories of the violent Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Additionally, more than 55% of the country lives below the poverty line, almost doubling the percentage registered in 2019. Extreme poverty has also surged within the past year, rising from 8% to 23%.

Unfortunately, corruption among Lebanese political elites has meant the lack of a government-led recovery plan. Popular protests in the wake of revelations about mismanagement of the ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port led to the mass resignation of then Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. Instead, volunteers and NGOs have spearheaded efforts to clean up the city. Funds raised abroad have gone straight to these NGOs on the ground, bypassing the Lebanese government due to the international community’s lack of trust in its leaders.

3RF and Lebanon’s future

The program 3RF aims to address the desperate situation in Lebanon. Announced at the recent International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People, the plan underscores urgent needs for political reform to solve the root causes of Lebanon’s economic crisis. Such reforms will facilitate recovery and reconstruction in the long run.

For his part, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called upon political leaders in Lebanon “to put aside partisan political interests and form a government that adequately protects and responds to the needs of the people.” The International Monetary Fund also promised to help but emphasized the importance of active participation from a legitimate Lebanese government during the reform process.

Conditions for Lebanon’s people have been difficult during 2020. Stemming from a spiraling economy and political corruption, the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port exacerbated these hardships. With thousands of people homeless and poverty rising, the U.N.’s 3RF will hopefully provide immediate relief while also laying the foundation for better governance in the future. Pressure from the international community can likewise encourage Lebanese leaders to form a new government and begin implementing necessary reforms.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Why Humanitarian Aid is Critical in LebanonHumanitarian aid is of vital importance to a country such as Lebanon. As of August 2020, the U.N. reported that over half of the population in the country is living in poverty. It is estimated that somewhere above 55% of the population is impoverished. This is due in part to the economic and political crisis that has been plaguing the country long before the current global COVID-19 pandemic or the explosion in Beirut earlier this year. However, numerous donors throughout the world have pledged to offer humanitarian aid to Lebanon so that it can survive its current hardships.

Why is Humanitarian Aid for Lebanon Important Today?

The main reason humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon today is because of the large number of Syrian refugees that have flooded the country. These Syrian refugees have fled their country due to the ongoing civil war. Lebanon hosts the largest amount of Syrian refugees in the world, with a total of 1.5 million of them residing there. It is this high increase of population within Lebanon that has caused a strain on vital services for refugees. Because of this, Lebanese authorities have been restricting more refugees from coming into the country. Lebanese authorities have also refused to build camps for the refugees. These factors have all led to worsened conditions for the refugees.

Doctors of the World: Aiding Refugees in Lebanon

One humanitarian organization that has been offering aid in Lebanon is the French Medecins du Monde or Doctors of the World. They have been providing substantial help to the refugees within the country. The group has mainly been operating in five healthcare centers that are located in the Lebanon Mount region and the Baqqa Valley of Lebanon. These two areas have a high concentration of refugees. Just in 2019, Medecins du Monde was able to provide 98, 390 health consultations, 3, 577 sexual and reproductive healthcare sessions and 30 training sessions to healthcare workers. Médecins du Monde has also been able to provide medication to the most vulnerable of refugees and mental health support.

The Beirut Explosion

The Beirut explosion has only exacerbated the need for humanitarian aid in Lebanon. Fortunately, a vast array of humanitarian organizations such as the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations have risen to the challenge. This organization has been able to provide humanitarian aid in the form of 50 tons of medical supplies and food items. The European Council was able to obtain pledges of up to 252.7 million Euros to be used for humanitarian aid for Lebanon. Of all the contributors the EU was the largest contributor, offering 63 million in Euros. Since 2011, the EU has in total offered 660 million Euros to the refugees in Lebanon.

Additionally, 60% of the EU humanitarian aid provided for refugees in Lebanon is multi-purpose cash assistance. The other 40% of EU assistance addresses other emergencies and needs. Cash assistance allows refugees to avoid the vulnerability that comes with a worsening socio-economic crisis in the country. In just 2019 this type of assistance was able to provide assistance to over 338,000 people within the country. Much of this type of aid was used to purchase essential items and services.

Lebanon has been dealing with a variety of challenges, one of them being its large population of refugees. However, many humanitarian organizations have been offering assistance to the country and its refugees. Today, humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon. As members of the international community, we must do our part to help Lebanon and Syrian refugees in their time of need.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

organizations helping LebanonOn August 4, 2020, one of the largest peacetime explosions to ever occur happened in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut. More than 2,700 pounds of ammonium nitrate exploded in the Port of Beirut. The explosion killed many and left others in serious conditions. People lost their homes, livelihoods and lives in seconds. Beirut was already struggling through an economic crisis and grappling with COVID-19 along with the rest of the world. Several organizations have been on the ground since the explosion. Here are three organizations helping Lebanon recover from this disaster.

Government mismanagement and rampant corruption already plague the lives of Lebanese citizens. Furthermore, COVID-19 has only exacerbated all of the country’s issues. Subsequently, the people are likely to continue to question authority after reporting revealed that the store of ammonium nitrate that caused the explosion had been sitting in city warehouses for more than six years near a highly-populated residential area. With the explosion, economic crisis and pandemic, people in the country need help.

3 Organizations Helping Lebanon

  1. The Lebanese Red Cross: The Lebanese Red Cross is providing ambulance services to citizens who have been seriously injured from the blast. Unfortunately, limited resources mean that at least one in five emergencies is left untreated. Every year, the organization responds to more than 140,000 calls. Those who are concerned and able can donate to the organization to help facilitate these services here. With the decimated major port in Beirut, Lebanese citizens have lost a major source of goods, including food. Food prices are expected to increase as a result.
  2. The United Nations’ World Food Programme: The United Nations’ World Food Programme is providing necessary sustenance to those in Beirut who may need it at this time. And as a result of the blast, many have lost their primary source of income, leaving them to go hungry without any alternative resources. The WFP provided 50,000 people with “cash assistance” in September. The families received a little more than $1,000 a month for six months. The organization is accepting donations here.
  3. The Amel Association: The Amel Association is a non-profit that helps with physical and psychological health. One day after the explosion, the organization mobilized in Beirut to help. It is providing food and hygiene kits as well as medical support. It is currently accepting monetary and other forms of donations. The organization operates a few primary health care centers in the city. These are continuously in need, even months after the explosion as people slowly begin recovery. This is especially true for those who suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The Amel Associations is accepting donations here.

Those affected in Beirut now must try to recover and move on from this disaster. As Lebanon finds itself in a time of need, those who can contribute to this worthy cause should do so. These three organizations helping Lebanon exemplify just how to provide in a time of need.

Tara Suter
Photo: Wikimedia