Inflammation and stories on Lebanon

Lebanon

The 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

the Media Misrepresents Lebanon
Lebanon is a sovereign state that lies on the western coast of the Mediterranean sea. With over six million inhabitants, this small country shares a long border with Syria, a country that is currently facing a multi-year civil war that has been the cause of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and intense human suffering.

Due to Lebanon’s close proximity to Syria, it naturally has faced some conflict in recent years with the overflow of refugees and military conflict on Lebanese soil. The Syrian war has already rendered and continues to produce much devastation for Syrian people, mainly through a lack of human rights.  

Because of this, the media has associated countries in the surrounding area with this chaotic state. There has been a very distinct picture painted of Lebanon, characterized as unsafe and disorganized. However, everything the public is being told is not exactly true, and the way the media misrepresents Lebanon has a major impact on how we categorize and make assumptions about this beautiful, culturally-rich state.

The main implication behind the way the media misrepresents Lebanon is the fact that the media industry survives off public opinion, meaning that headlines and article content are often edited and revised to fit a style that will capture a reader’s attention. Due to this, it is not uncommon for the media to misrepresent situations and give inflated facts to attract more coverage. This is one of the biggest factors of how the media misrepresents Lebanon and, more specifically, the country’s stability.

While certain parts of Lebanon have faced overflow from the Syrian war–for instance, there have been minor security incidents that have occurred in smaller cities like Baalbek and Sidon–these incidents have been both sporadic and uncommon. The way in which the media covers these topics often paints Lebanon as an unsafe environment for travelers, which is not entirely true.

While there are places to avoid, such as the smaller cities that lie on the Lebanon-Syrian border, larger cities like Beirut have remained nearly untouched and are still safe for tourism. In fact, sources like the New York Times and ABC News have published pro-Beirut pieces that highlight the beauty of Beirut culture. Specifically, the New York Times article touched on the Beirut art scene and the various cultures weaved throughout the city’s architecture and cuisine.

In addition to Beirut, other Lebanese cities like Byblos and Zahlé have also been marked safe for tourism in recent years, with standard travel-safety procedures. The truth is that these Lebanese cities are very similar to any other major city; it is simply a large metropolitan area with general security issues like pickpocketing, scamming and robbery. These problems exist in all major cities throughout the globe.

However, when visiting Lebanon, it is important not to ignore the struggle the country faces with border safety and its ongoing rubbish crisis, in which large amounts of trash continue to cover the state’s shoreline. While tourism helps the Lebanese economy, it is vital that tourists do not contribute to the country’s main issues such as littering.

Although it faces a few security concerns, Lebanon is a beautiful country. Cities like Beirut, Byblos and Zahle have enriching cultures and histories alike, and it is important not to let the way the media misrepresents Lebanon take away from the nation’s true colors.

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr

refugees in Lebanon
Following the Syrian crisis, there has been a sizeable loss of the records on state affairs in Lebanon. The last conducted assessment took place in 2011, prior to the presence of refugees in Lebanon. This lack of gathered information has prevented the successful strategizing of poverty reduction and a definite increase in the total impoverished.

Assessment of Poverty in Lebanon

The assessment of 2011 estimates poverty in Lebanon to be 27 percent; however, that number is believed to have climbed with the introduction of more refugees to Lebanon. Palestinian refugees were already highly impoverished before the conflict in Syria, with two-thirds qualifying as poor or extremely poor. According to the Palestinian Return Centre:

  • The poverty line was determined as “$6 a day, which allows to cover basic food and non-food requirements of an adult refugee”
  • The extreme poverty line was determined as “$2.17 [which] allows purchasing enough food to satisfy the daily basic food needs of an adult Palestine refugee.”

Many refugees, however, are unable to meet even these minuscule thresholds. In this study of 2011, 65 percent of refugees are considered impoverished, and 6.6 percent are considered extremely impoverished, subsisting on less than $2 a day.

In addition to these statistics, there are a few schisms dividing those in poverty in Lebanon:

  • A staggering 56 percent of refugees in Lebanon are unemployed; in that number, there also exists high gender inequity
  • 65 percent of men are employed
  • Only 13 percent of women are employed 
  • Beirut, Nabatieh and Mount Lebanon have lower rates of poverty and extreme poverty
  • Beirut has 0.67 percent extreme poverty and 5.85 percent of poverty
  • Bekaa, South and North, in contrast, have a much higher rate of poverty
  • North has 17.75 percent extreme poverty and 52.57 percent poverty

In addition to the above, the regional divide data is from before the influx of refugees in Lebanon and has conclusively increased as well. The poverty rates in Lebanon are not dispersed equally among the people, but rather a heavy burden on certain areas and aspects of society.

Rapid Poverty Assessment and Lebanon Crisis Response Plan

The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that in 2018, 58 percent of refugee households now live in extreme poverty, and an overall 76 percent of refugees in Lebanon live below the general poverty line. These statistics continue to climb, but the Rapid Poverty Assessment of the UNDP aims to not only document updated numbers, but to also develop strategies and a plan to increase efforts against rising poverty, especially the rising poverty of refugees in Lebanon.

The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, while a commendable humanitarian response to the rising issues, will need to actively increase efforts to quite an extent. The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that another $2.7 billion will be needed to make the plan and approach effectual in implementation in Lebanon.

If the Rapid Poverty Assessment can successfully create a strategy to curb such rising poverty and a highly concentrated focus on the refugees in Lebanon can combine with a greater source of financial aid, then an innumerable amount of lives will be both benefitted, and saved.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr

A Global Health Institute in LebanonOn July 19, 2017, American University of Beirut (AUB) president Fadlo Khuri announced the development of AUB’s very own Global Health Institute, the first research and public health establishment in Lebanon and the wider region.

Under its “Health 2025 initiative,” AUB’s vision of contributing to national healthcare reform inspired the idea of establishing a Global Health Institute in Lebanon. An additional Health Sciences Complex will also be developed to complement the institute in its goal of empowering AUB’s footprint in health, for it to become a renowned medical center serving the clinical and surgical needs of the Arab population on a global scale. 

According to Khuri, the Global Health Institute in Lebanon will contribute positively to the development of a “sustainable future for health in the Arab World.” He also acknowledged his fellow board members, associate vice president for health affairs Shadi Saleh and executive vice president Dean Mohamed Sayegh. Their collaborative efforts over a period of 18 months have ultimately launched the institution. 

Donors & International Supporters

The Global Health Institute in Lebanon relies on the support of its generous donors. A five-year $1.35 million core foundational grant was given by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in recognition of the university’s ambitious healthcare mission. The IDRC leadership expressed its enthusiasm in collaborating with AUB to support new research leaders on current issues in healthcare, society, economics and the environment.

Interdisciplinary Programs

Currently, the Global Health Institute in Lebanon has launched three interdisciplinary programs directed by different health units within the university. The Conflict Medicine Program, the Refugee Health Program and the Nutrition, Obesity, and Related Disease Program have already exceeded expectations with their research projects, capacity-building events and outreach actions. New programs will be launched in the near future to broaden the range of activities and topics addressed by the institution.

Strategic Agreement with Humanitarian Leadership Academy

In August 2017, AUB’s Global Health Institute in Lebanon signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (HLA), a global learning initiative providing people the skills needed to effectively prepare for and respond to crises. The Global Health Institute will pilot research, develop new structured learning pathways and contextualize content through advanced learning tools such as online courses to deliver necessary humanitarian capacity-building assessments to HLA.

One of the first activities organized by both parties was a workshop offered to representatives of different local and international organizations in Lebanon. The one-day workshop was focused on supporting local stakeholders responding to the Syrian Crisis.

Director of the Middle East Centre Brigitte Khair-Mountain praised the workshop for being a great opportunity to validate gaps in humanitarian learning present in the Middle East. She added that the workshop will allow stakeholders to prioritize best practices based on the region’s previous experiences in humanitarian response.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lebanon
From the civil war that lasted around 20 years, to the Israeli war in 2006 and the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, Lebanon has been in a state of instability and conflict for many years. The nation has struggled to overcome the seemingly endless obstacles that prohibit the country from reform and development. Luckily, though, USAID and foreign aid in general have been a great source of support in assisting its citizens with greater accessibility to clean drinking water, increased access to primary healthcare centers and medical treatment and improving education, poverty and vaccination rates among children.

 

Is Foreign Aid Detrimental to the U.S.?

Answering how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lebanon has been a subject of debate for many years, particularly among U.S. citizens who believe that their government is continuously providing monetary assistance to developing countries in huge amounts, far more than what is actually needed.

 

U.S. Perception

Most U.S. citizens estimate that around 25 percent of the federal government’s budget is spent on foreign aid; however, in reality, foreign aid accounts for less than 1 percent of the total budget. Since the perceived amount donated to help third world countries is highly inflated in the public’s eyes, it is expected that approximately 59 percent of Americans want to reduce foreign aid with the hope that the money will instead be invested in their own country.

Yet, what the public neglects is that the funds allocated to underserved nations is not just an act of compassion, but rather the establishment of a mutually beneficial relationship between both parties — the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lebanon through improved security, increased stability and economic prosperity. 

 

What are the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lebanon?

By contributing to the country’s development process through the investments in projects and programs aimed at educating people and providing citizens with necessary resources, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lebanon through the establishment of a new trade relationship with the recipient country. This camaraderie will, in turn, increase its margin of profit.

In 2015, Lebanon imported goods from the U.S with a total value of $1.22 billion, as the U.S. ranked the country’s third top importer of goods. Such huge financial transactions have surely benefited both the donor (economic prosperity) and recipient (strong quality of goods).

Moreover, the U.S. donation of $419 million to aid Syrian refugees in Lebanon will not only help the Lebanese population in overcoming the economic and social burden imposed on their nation, but it will also reduce the influx of refugees to the U.S which can create an even greater burden if left uncontrolled.

 

Democratic Governance and Conflict Resolution

USAID has succeeded in initiating the start of democratic and resilient Lebanese societies by coordinating with local partners to enhance transparency and accountability of governments, as well as supporting elevated participation rates by the civil society, youth and women. By favoring government-led reforms that intend to foster more pluralistic and fair political leadership, U.S foreign aid to Lebanon has offered the country a chance to exercise proper peaceful democratic relationships.

 

Integration and Expansion

In response to the Syrian war crisis and its impact on Lebanon, USAID has also re-oriented existing projects in the country to integrate the refugees within the established system. Additional foreign aid to Lebanon has been provided to help host the refugees by building more schools, expanding health facilities and improving access to water.

Through foreign aid, Lebanon and the U.S. can maintain a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship that works to improve citizens’ lives from both nations.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

Toward Sustainable Agriculture in LebanonThe famous concept of permaculture, developed first in 1978 by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, has recently been integrated into the Lebanese agricultural system, particularly in the rural areas of the country. Permaculture is a design science aiming to combine knowledge and culture with habitats and human agricultural systems. It utilizes the principles of ecology and anthropology to ensure the ethical reproduction of the diversity, resilience and uniqueness of natural ecosystems.

Through the application of these ethical principles in their daily lives, people gradually transform into productive producers rather than simply being passive and dependent consumers. Therefore, permaculture not only unifies local communities through the development of teamwork skills and resilience, but also paves the way to a more sustainable agricultural system and environmentally friendly future.

The rural areas of Lebanon implemented permaculture in 2014, after countryside residents received training and workshops organized by the SOILS: Permaculture Association Lebanon. With a goal of initiating the creation of sustainable agriculture in Lebanon, Rita Khawand, a former Lebanese actress, co-founded the SOILS organization after winning a social entrepreneurship competition led by environmental and sanitation based non-governmental organizations in her hometown. According to Khawand, Lebanon needs such a creative process, as it helps humans in “respecting nature and man.”

Alongside Khawand’s vision, Fadi Kanso, a Lebanese agricultural scientist, joined the SOILS community following the completion of his education in Germany to invest in permaculture with the aim of implementing sustainable agriculture in Lebanon. Kanso highlighted that the main problem in Lebanon is the farmers’ dependence on monoculture, a tendency that seemed to be catastrophic during severe climate shifts where some people witnessed huge financial losses as they relied only on a single crop species.

Kanso also stressed the negative impact of the overwhelming amount of pesticides administered by the farmers in the country, as it led to a reduction in crop fertility by a yearly rate of 15 percent. Moreover, these toxic chemicals also manifest adverse effects through their contribution to the development of health problems, such as minimizing the levels of iron and magnesium in the body which are absorbed from the consumption of certain types of fruits and vegetables.

One of the main advantages of the SOILS organization’s permaculture project in Lebanon is its role in achieving food security for refugees through manuals designed to help vulnerable populations create their own microgardens, and thus have access to the necessary food products. Permaculture can eventually aid the government with the burden of limited resources, which has become a significant concern following the Syrian war crisis and the immigration of millions of Syrian citizens to Lebanon.

Rita Khawand and the SOILS community are striving to transform Lebanon from an underdeveloped non-environmentally friendly community to a developed country with a sustainable agricultural system by uniting entire regions to fight for a better and improved future. From the Bekaa region in the north to the village of Saidoun in the south, the dissemination of permaculture is becoming a national success as local residents indulge themselves in Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) courses and learn how to overcome all financial and environmental challenges.

Despite the numerous fallbacks witnessed during the past few years, the positive impact of permaculture has created a sense of optimism among Lebanese citizens in their ability to succeed in the improvement of their country and their contribution in the development of sustainable agriculture in Lebanon.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in LebanonThe country of Lebanon has experienced years of domestic instability and conflict. However, prior to the civil war that began in 1975, the former French colony was a luxurious tourist destination. Its capital, Beirut, was commonly known as the Paris of the Middle East. With the significant rebuilding of infrastructure in Lebanon, many hope that Beirut may once again be in the international spotlight.

Rebuilding Infrastructure in Lebanon

Following the 2005 peace agreement, Lebanon’s economy grew at an extraordinarily fast rate for a number of years. Growth exceeded 8 percent within a four-year period, from 2007 to 2010. However, even at that time, the country’s needs were immense.

Lebanon’s current gross domestic product is $47 billion, yet the 2010 estimate of necessary spending on infrastructure in Lebanon topped $20 billion. At that time, one government minister suggested that the most valuable development efforts would include projects to connect areas outside the capital with Beirut and the completion of a transportation corridor across the country’s north-south axis.

A 2013 report detailed the results of one $30 million program to repair and enhance infrastructure in Lebanon. Coordinated through the World Bank, the program resulted in the rehabilitation of 175 kilometers of roads as well as reconstruction of 17 public buildings. It benefitted an estimated 178 municipalities across the country.

Recent Developments

More recently, the country’s improved trajectory has been somewhat obstructed by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Lebanon has hosted the largest number of refugees from that conflict and this burden has strained the country’s resources.

As a result, economic growth has also slowed. Fortunately, growth has not turned negative, and some infrastructure projects continue as the international community addresses the refugee crisis. The United Nations Development Programme and the U.S. Agency for International Development each have numerous ongoing projects in Lebanon. Additionally, international travelers are again recognizing Lebanon as a desirable vacation destination.

Improved stability and rebuilding have the potential to return Lebanon to its former status as an international hub. Such an outcome would greatly improve the lives of its six million citizens. It could also make this Mediterranean nation, with historical ties to both Europe and the Arab world, a valuable trading partner in future years.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in LebanonThe country of Lebanon sits on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Israel to the south, Syria to the west and Turkey to the north. Lebanon’s tumultuous history with its neighbors has hindered its economic growth and recovery. The last two decades have seen Lebanon wrapped up in wars and invasions from its neighbors.

Since 2011, over one million refugees from the Syrian Civil War have registered with the Lebanese government. These refugees live in camps, supported by the U.N., among the Lebanese population in major cities. The influx of one million people in six years has severely strained the economy of a country of only six million. A report by the World Bank claims that this influx has limited credit access in Lebanon.

Wars, occupations and bombardments have damaged Lebanon’s infrastructure. Although much of the damage was done to Lebanese cities, the countryside was not untouched. Any damaged farmland can significantly hurt credit access in Lebanon. Much of the rural population lives in poverty and already had difficulty gaining access to credit before the war in 2006; damaged fields and lower crop yields only made this more difficult.

To increase credit access in Lebanon, specifically to rural farmers, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) launched a program targeting these farmers, called the Hilly Areas Sustainable Agricultural Development Project (HASAD). By organizing crop rotations, water access and soil conservation, the project aims to increase the productivity of the farmers. An increase in crop yield means higher profits for the farmers, which could, in turn, increase their access to credit.

Credit access in Lebanon is much easier to gain in urban areas, where more of the country’s wealth is located. After 16 years of civil war (1975-1990), people found that the banks could not offer sufficient credit. Kalafata was founded in 2000 to assist banks and help small businesses gain credit access in Lebanon. The organization is supported by the European Union, the World Bank and the Lebanese government.

Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, Lebanon’s economy has only grown by one to two percent each year. The refugees have increased the amount of available labor, but many Lebanese blame them for taking their jobs. This increase in labor could potentially help small businesses boom, which will hopefully increase the growth of the Lebanese economy.

Economic growth and credit access in Lebanon will continue to be hindered by the instability of the region. Unfortunately, regional stability does not look to be anywhere in sight. Recently the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad al-Harir stepped down from power, claiming he feared for his life. This has sparked outrage from the Presidents of Lebanon and Iran. Both parties claim that this is interference from Saudi Arabia. The leader of Hezbollah has decried that this is an act of war against Lebanon.

Most recently, President Donald Trump declared that the United States will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, increasing tensions in the Middle Eastern region and possibly hindering the further development of nations like Lebanon. Lebanon’s greatest hope for its future lies in itself and how it will continue to handle the refugee crisis. Perhaps allowing refugees access to work opportunities and credit in Lebanon will give the nation’s economy the boost it needs.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr