Inflammation and stories on Lebanon

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

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Lebanon
The small, Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon has undergone development and overall economic growth despite the conflict between the nation and neighboring states. Although Lebanon has experienced an overall increase in economic power, the distribution of wealth is largely unequal, causing more issues of poverty in the country. In order to gain a better understanding of poverty and how it is affecting the country, below are the top 10 facts about poverty in Lebanon.

Top 10 Poverty Facts about Lebanon

  1. Lebanon’s economy has grown exponentially since the beginning of development, offering citizens job opportunities to increase the standard of living. In 1988, Lebanon had a GDP of $3.31 billion. As of 2017, the country’s economy exponentially rose to an estimated $49.60 billion, which ranks 82nd highest in the world.
  2. Although GDP has certainly increased in recent years, the rate of economic growth in Lebanon has fluctuated. In some years since faster development, Lebanon experienced as low as a 56 percent decrease in GDP due to political instability and global economic decline. Most recently, however, Lebanon maintains an approximately successful 2 percent GDP growth rate.
  3. The service industry is Lebanon’s overwhelming largest economic sector, with specialized jobs and tourism services continuing to increase. The service industry accounts for a majority of the GDP in Lebanon at an estimated 73.3 percent, while industry and agriculture comprise 21 percent and 5.7 percent of the GDP, respectively.
  4. The unemployment rate in Lebanon is relatively average due to financial and political issues in the country, with an estimated 6.3 percent unemployment rate in 2017. While economic opportunity has been improved for many Lebanese, this number has actually stayed around the same over the past year, reaching the lowest of 6.2 percent unemployment.
  5. Although Lebanon’s economy has continued to grow, poverty in the country remains relatively prominent. Approximately 30 percent of the country’s grand total of six million people live under $4 a day. Poverty is much higher in the rural regions of the north, while it is less prominent in urban areas like the capital city of Beirut.
  6. Life expectancy in Lebanon has risen significantly catalyzed by rapid development throughout the country. In 1960, the average lifetime of people in Lebanon was an already relatively high 63.2 years and has increased to 79.6 years in 2016.
  7. School enrollment and persistence to end enrollment in Lebanon has fluctuated and decreased since the beginning of development. In 1999, about 90 percent of primary school students completed their full studies, while this number has decreased to 84 percent in 2016. Decreased educational persistence can trap some Lebanese into low-skill, high-demand job markets.
  8. Despite a decrease in primary school enrollment in Lebanon, the adult literacy rate in the country is high, standing at 91.18 percent. In young adults (ages 15 to 24), the literacy rate is substantially higher at 99.24 percent, and the male and female literacy rates are relatively equal with 99.16 percent and 99.34 percent, respectively.
  9. Nearly 500,000 people in Lebanon are Palestinian refugees registered with United Nations relief organizations in the country. This makes up an approximate 8 percent of the country’s population, but many continue to live in refugee camps in extreme poverty with limited access to diversified job markets.
  10. Poor Lebanese citizens and international refugees are more likely to be subjected to human trafficking. Refugees and women are particularly vulnerable to be involved in forced labor. Although the government has been working on decreasing the prevalence of forced labor and human trafficking in the country, results and impact have been inconsistent.

Lebanon has increased its economy, offering more opportunities for its people. A strong focus on the service and skilled industry, along with industrial and agricultural growth has allowed the country to increase its standard of living. Although the economy has developed significantly, poverty for some Lebanese and severe limitations for refugees still continues. With more freedom and better security for these people, poverty will continue to decrease in Lebanon.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr
 

World Bank Helps LebanonLebanon is a country located in the Middle East, facing the Mediterranean Sea and bordering Syria, Jordan and Israel. Lebanon’s biggest obstacle is its proximity to the Syrian Conflict, which has economically hindered Lebanon. According to The World Bank, poverty is predicted to worsen; approximately 200,000 Lebanese were forced into poverty due to the Syrian Crisis. Fortunately, The World Bank is helping Lebanon progress as a sovereign state.

Five Ways the World Bank Helps Lebanon

1. The World Bank financially supports the implementation of the Greater Beirut Water Supply Project.

The World Bank is helping Lebanon by advancing its infrastructure. Due to the high volume of refugees in Beirut, there have been many problems with accessing clean water. Several areas surrounding Beirut do not have safe, drinkable water. This project provides clean water to low-income neighborhoods in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The initiative was approved on June 15, 2018, and the project will end on November 30, 2020.

2. The World Bank is leading a $400 million project to increase employment opportunities.

The World Bank is helping Lebanon with their economy, which came to a standstill after the displacement of Syrian refugees. About 1.1 million Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon currently, which is 25 percent of its population. This project is called “Creating Economic Opportunities in Support of the Lebanon National Jobs Program” and will create 52,000 permanent jobs and 12,000 temporary jobs. This will definitely increase career opportunities throughout the country as well as increase employment so that individuals can improve their livelihoods.

3. The World Bank is one of the main creators of the “Lebanon Youth Advisory Group”.

The World Bank is helping Lebanon by empowering and engaging its youth. The Youth Advisory Group (YAG) acts as a liaison between the younger population of Lebanon and The World Bank. Young adults between the ages of 20-25 join YAG and discuss how The World Bank’s influence affecting the youth. YAG participates in the decision-making process for new initiatives spearheaded by The World Bank, who actively converses with the organization to start new projects. YAG provides students and young adults a voice within the education and political systems.

4. The World Bank funds The Greater Beirut Public Transport Project.

The Greater Beirut Public Transport Project will “improve the speed, quality and accessibility of public transportation for passengers in the Greater Beirut Area”. The World Bank continues to support Lebanon’s infrastructure. Access to the city allows individuals to travel to work. It also permits individuals to move from place to place at an inexpensive cost; this will increase accessibility to the city, which could potentially have economic benefits. Safety is also a priority within this initiative, therefore, it will also fund pedestrian bridges and crossings. Overall, the project will offer a more secure and accessible urban environment for the people of Beirut.

5. The World Bank approved the Land Administration System Modernization Project in Lebanon.

The Land Administration System Modernization Project costs about $43 million and it will make the retrieval of property rights data and land use information much easier to attain. The objective of this project is to facilitate processes related to Property Valuation and State Land Management. Ultimately, this intelligence will provide insight for all “planning and value-adding services in the nation”. This project is a victory for institutional transparency and development.

The World Bank is helping Lebanon improve their infrastructure, employment rates, political systems and beyond. It continues to better Lebanon so that it can thrive economically. Lebanon is currently facing a multitude of issues, yet The World Bank has been an important ally in their struggles. They have been a crucial ally to Lebanon in this time, as the projects above reflect.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Amber HeardAmber Heard is a model and actress who has dedicated her career to being more than just a “pretty face.” She is best known for her roles in Zombieland (2009), The Stepfather (2009) and The Danish Girl (2015). Heard was also featured in The Justice League (2017) as Mera, a role which she will be reprising in the upcoming Aquaman film.

The actress has always been a strong advocate for the importance of charity work and helping those who are in need. Now, through a lot of time and dedication, Amber Heard is helping Syrian refugees that need medical attention by partnering with The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

The Syrian American Medical Society

SAMS is an organization that provides medical relief to Syrian refugees by working on the front lines. The non-governmental organization (NGO) prides itself on being one of the most active and trusted organizations on the ground in Syria. Its main goal is to provide medical care to every patient who needs it.

SAMS is dedicated to providing these medical services all while promoting medical education in Syria with the assistance of hard-working humanitarians from around the globe. Its vision is to strengthen the medical community for Syria’s future. In 2017 alone, SAMS worked to provide more than 3.5 million health services to vulnerable populations, serving patients regardless of religious affiliation, race, ethnicity or political affiliation.

SAMS primarily operates in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey where it has provided support to 110 medical facilities and over 3,000 personnel. Now, its programs are quickly expanding to other countries that are facing extreme poverty. For example, in 2016, it launched SAMS Global Response (SGR) to address the medical needs of vulnerable populations in Greece.

In 2017, SAMS expanded its operation to Egypt and Bangladesh where it set up to meet the increasing medical needs of those who have no access to health care. SAMS does what is called “medical missions” where it brings in skilled health professionals from around the world to provide life-saving care free of charge.    

SAMS is a leader for advocacy and works closely with policymakers both within the United States and on the global level. It advocates increasing political action to help end the crisis in Syria and allow for the voices of its workers on the ground who continue to risk their safety to save the lives of the vulnerable. It advocates for:

  • Protection of medical facilities, healthcare workers and civilians
  • Provisions for access to trapped civilians
  • Increasing involvement of NGOs in decision-making
  • Support for both Syrian refugees and host communities

Amber Heard Is Helping Syrian Refugees

SAMS asked Amber Heard to join its crew on a medical mission to help assist with the 660,000 displaced Syrians in a camp. “My biggest takeaway from this trip is the indelible mark left on my soul after spending a week on the ground here…” Heard spent a week in Jordan with SAMS to visit one of the largest camps for Syrian refugees, which also doubles as a rehabilitation center for those who have been injured.  

Amber Heard is helping Syrian refugees by starting a fundraising campaign. During her trip to Jordan, Heard met a 12-year-old girl named Weam, who is in desperate need of medical assistance. She suffers from a disease called thalassemia, which means she needs blood transfusions every 20 days. This is an expense her family simply cannot afford. Weam had been receiving treatments from an NGO; unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the treatment had to stop. There are 12 more children that have to live with this disease who also need help.  

Amber Heard is helping Syrian refugees by partnering with SAMS to offer a trip to the Aquaman premiere as well as a meet and greet with Heard and her co-star Jason Momoa. The money raised will be used to help treat the 12 children suffering from thalassemia in Jordan.

Amber Heard is using her influence to raise awareness of the important work being done by SAMS. With her fundraiser, 12 children will get the blood transfusions they need to fight thalassemia. Medical attention for Syrian refugees is an important cause, and thanks to people like Amber Heard and organization like SAMS, some of the suffering that these refugees are experiencing can be lessened.

– Olivia Hodges

Photo: Flickr

LebanonThe fact remains clear worldwide that education fosters better economic opportunity. Inclusive education has become an important global poverty issue for this reason. Yet, Lebanon still struggles to provide a proper education for disabled children. This can potentially leave handicapped individuals at a disadvantage when compared to their peers.

Current situation

Lebanese schools often decline disabled children due to discrimination and inadequate accommodations. When these children can attend school, they struggle with a lack of specialized care. They find that no individualized lesson plans exist for them and teachers have no special training. Most schools even lack the appropriate architecture for wheelchair access.

The burden of these shortcomings often falls on the parents. They may pay high traveling fees as a handicap-friendly school can often lie miles away from home of the children. Other schools might charge the parents for a specialized tutor. If the parents cannot pay these costs, their child can end up without an education at all.

This trend has led to some disturbing statistics in education for disabled children. The Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU) conducted a study in 2014 from a sampling of disabled individuals. They discovered that 54% of these individuals had only received a primary level of education. Of this 54%, 24% still reported having issues with illiteracy.

Law 220

Issues such as these persist despite Lebanon law requiring non-discriminatory education for disabled children. Law 220, created in 2000, ensures this right for all disabled individuals. Yet, fifteen years later, only five public schools had built the modifications to allow wheelchair access.

Residential facilities for those with disabilities seems the best this law can provide. Yet, many question the quality of the education received. Many children come out of these facilities still illiterate or even without finishing school. These facilities have also reported dangers such as child and adult residents residing together.

The main issue, it seems, resides in enforcing and implementing Law 220. Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests that the Lebanon government must change its policies. It advises them to “develop guidelines and standards on inclusive classrooms” and “revise the teacher training materials”. Along with this, the government must “strengthen and regulate the monitoring of schools”.

To its credit, the government has noticed the issue and has taken measures to fix it. HRW reports that the education sector, the Ministry of Education and High Education (MEHE), has plans for a 2018 pilot program. Under this program, children with learning disabilities will be integrated into 30 schools. Six schools will enroll children who have “visual, hearing, physical, and moderate intellectual disabilities”.

Private organizations and UNICEF have also made efforts to build accessibility modifications to school facilities. Others pay for specialized teachers and materials for those with visual impairments so they may attend school. Lebanese teachers themselves are also fighting to develop a strategy that will improve inclusion.

The UN estimated that in 2001, 10% of the population in Lebanon has a disability. At a current population of 6,094,089, this means that over 600,000 individuals might face difficulties with education access in Lebanon. As the population of Lebanon has grown since then, this number has increased.

Over 600,000 individuals can remain trapped in cycles of poverty due to something they have no control over. This does not seem fair and many organizations, including the government, agree. Hopefully, this assessment will give the Lebanese government and other organizations the incentive to keep fighting for a fully inclusive education.

Elizabeth A. Frerking

Photo: Flickr

Lebanon
Lebanon is a small nation wedged between the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the south and Syria to the northeast. Despite its size and a population of only six million, Lebanon became a center of trade in the Middle East during the mid-1900s. It is also known for its diverse culture in which Shia and Sunni Muslims live alongside a large Christian minority and other smaller groups.

The outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 undermined the country’s prosperity and stability. The conflict lasted 15 years and Lebanon has struggled to recover ever since. While Lebanon remains a relatively wealthy nation in the region overall, its economic situation has become increasingly complicated and many people living in the country do not benefit from that wealth. Here are the top 10 facts crucial to know about poverty in Lebanon.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Lebanon

  1. More than 25 percent of Lebanese citizens live in poverty. That number sinks as low as 16 percent in urban areas like the capital city of Beirut, and climbs to 36 percent in some rural areas.
  2. A person living below the poverty threshold in Lebanon earns less than $266 per month.
  3. Children in poor families are less likely to be able to complete their education. This can trap them in low-skill, high-demand job-markets.
  4. As many as 20 percent of Lebanese citizens live with unimproved sanitation facilities; 10 percent of poor households have no access to clean drinking water.
  5. There are more than one million refugees in Lebanon, with most fleeing the Syrian civil war. Refugees are not counted in many official poverty statistics from Lebanon’s government, meaning that the effects of poverty are significantly more widespread than these statistics suggest.
  6. Nearly half a million Palestinian refugees are registered with U.N. relief organizations in Lebanon. Palestinians may make up as much as 10 percent of the country’s population but they lack several important rights. Many live in U.N. camps in extreme poverty and are denied access to certain types of work.
  7. Poor Lebanese citizens, refugees and women brought in from other countries around the world are vulnerable to human trafficking. Refugees are especially likely to be coerced into forced labor. In 2014, the Lebanese government committed to reducing human trafficking within the country, but the results have been inconsistent so far.
  8. Poor Lebanese workers are often trapped in high-turnover or seasonal jobs with low wages. Making matters worse, the government and U.N. cannot adequately support the huge refugee population in Lebanon, meaning that many of them must find work to survive. This pits citizens and non-citizens against each other. Lebanese workers suddenly face much higher competition for jobs. Meanwhile, refugees lack citizens’ legal protections, which forces many of them to work in difficult conditions for half or even a third of what native workers are paid.
  9. Women (especially heads of households) are often the most impacted by poverty. Many are culturally expected to raise and care for a family but are also forced to enter the workforce to provide additional income. These dual expectations can add to their burden, stifle their educational prospects and make it difficult for them to access highly-competitive jobs.
  10. Social safety programs are rare and inconsistent in Lebanon. Many families are forced to go hundreds or thousands of dollars into debt to cover unexpected expenses like medical bills.

Building a Safety Net

The Lebanese Civil War severely damaged the country’s economy and infrastructure and the modern refugee crisis has only increased the strain. That said, several promising programs could alleviate these problems and reduce the impact of poverty in Lebanon.

While Lebanon’s social programs are still relatively young and often haphazard, the government has formed two primary means of relieving poverty: the National Social Security Fund and the Emergency National Poverty Targeting Programme. Expanding and improving these programs along with continued investment in infrastructure and education could make an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of Lebanese citizens.

Unfortunately, these government programs do not cover refugees. U.N. humanitarian aid has traditionally stepped up to fill this void, but even these resources have recently begun to dry up.

Response from the International Community

These 10 facts about poverty in Lebanon illustrate a complex and ongoing struggle to improve living conditions in the country. As the Syrian conflict continues, the government of Lebanon will have to continue to cope with an unstable region and an increasingly large population of foreign refugees within its borders.

Thankfully, Lebanon is not alone. In April, around 50 countries met in Paris at the CEDRE Conference where they pledged to invest more than $11 billion into Lebanon’s economy. Time will tell if measures like these will accomplish their goal of restoring prosperity to Lebanon and, eventually, to the Middle East.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Lebanon
Girls’ education in Lebanon not only includes its female citizens, but also the female refugees who have recently become part of the country. Lebanon hosts almost one million registered Syrian refugees, in addition to other unregistered refugees from Syria, Palestine and Iraq.

This huge influx of people has had a negative impact on the country’s education system, which is already facing severe challenges. All these things have caused major setbacks for girls’ education in Lebanon, which suffers from gender inequality and social discrimination against women.

Girls’ Participation in Education

The net enrollment rates of female and male students in Lebanon vary from primary to tertiary education, with the ratio being almost equal in primary education. However, in the secondary and tertiary stages, there is a gender gap, with the percentage of girls attending schools and colleges higher than boys.

Although these statistics show progress, traditional stereotyping and the age-old patriarchal culture still prevents some girls from participating in the education system. In particular, girls from poor and less fortunate families are still considered a burden and are married off at an early age. Compulsory free education has not yet been imposed by the government of Lebanon, making the situation more difficult for girls who are eager to study but unable to do so.

The Impact of the Refugee Crisis on Girls’ Education in Lebanon

The huge inflow of refugees in recent years has put enormous pressure on the existing public education system, which is fragile and has insufficient capacity to educate all of the children in Lebanon. Gaining access to formal education is hard for the refugees and is even more difficult for girls coming from conservative backgrounds whose families disapprove of co-ed education, as there are few girls-only schools in Lebanon.

A Helping Hand Provided by UNICEF and Other NGOs

In 2010, the National Adult Education Program, with the help of the Lebanon Young Women’s Christian Association, introduced literacy programs which have aided almost 800 women in Lebanon. In 2017, the Kayany Foundation built a new girls’ school for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa valley, making formal education accessible to girls whose families will not allow them to attend co-ed schools.

UNICEF has funded a wide range of programs and facilities to educate girls in Lebanon irrespective of their nationality. These include:

  • Fees, stationery and transportation for school-going children.
  • A workshop for the Girls Got IT event, where girls are encouraged to take part in IT, technology and science fields.
  • Innovative workshops like 3D modeling, where teenage girls are using user-friendly software models to visualize and build their own “Smart Cities”.
  • A psychosocial support curriculum known as My Safety, My Wellbeing, where adolescent girls are equipped with the knowledge and skills to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and child marriage, as well as cope with health issues like hygiene, stress and reproductive health.

The Malala Fund, which was founded by Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Laureate, has funded projects undertaken by the Kayany Foundation. Together, they have established the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School in Bekaa. This school provides quality secondary education for almost 200 Syrian girls residing in informal refugee camps in the area.

UNICEF, along with other nonprofit organizations, are making efforts to improve girls’ education in Lebanon so that they can learn the skills they need to better their lives.

– Mahua Mitra
Photo: Flickr