Inflammation and stories on Lebanon

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

Women in conflict resolutionThe year 2020 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 in conflict resolution changes this, transforming the field as the world knows it. Since 2016, women’s inclusion in conflict resolution has shown a 64% less chance of failed peace negotiations and a 35% increase in the likelihood of 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 United States’ recent departure under the Trump administration, the MENA has been riddled with conflict. There are longstanding ideological tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Furthermore, one should note the bloody civil war in Yemen and the Assad-Putin takeover of Syria. Libya is becoming a failing state and more terrorist organizations are rising to power.

This is an integral time for women’s inclusion in conflict resolution as longstanding 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 been 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, the group gained so much momentum that members advanced the 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 fight for change in the MENA is through women-led nonprofits. Take, for instance, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assitance (CEWLA). Under the strict rule of current leader 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 have 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. The women lead conflict resolution initiatives between the clans’ elders and the at-risk youth. The power stemming from Wajir’s women 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, the region notes massive improvements over the years. This provides ample opportunity to transform the region further. Analysts find 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 in negotiation 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 the world empowers women, the world encourages 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 holds the most significant challenges for Lebanon as the nation 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 determine 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, is facing accusations of corruption and mismanagement of the state. Estimates determine that Hezbollah’s 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 led to $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 is largely leaving the country’s people to fend for themselves amid 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, the EESN aims to consider the crisis in Lebanon within the context of COVID-19. With more than 250,000 total cases and approximately 5,000 daily confirmed cases as of January 17, 2021, 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 toward 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 more than 2 million people.

Beyond the Rubble

While the Lebanese government is in shambles amid 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 demonstrate that although Lebanon must rebuild its foundations, the rest of the world will not abandon Lebanon’s 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 more than half of the population in the country lives 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, because humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon, numerous donors throughout the world are pledging to offer assistance to Lebanon so that the nation 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 Syria due to the ongoing civil war. Lebanon hosts the largest amount of Syrian refugees in the world, with a total of 1.5 million Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon. It is this high increase in population within Lebanon that is causing a strain on vital services for refugees. Because of this, Lebanese authorities are 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 offering aid in Lebanon is the French Médecins du Monde or Doctors of the World. The organization is providing substantial help to the refugees within the country. The group mainly operates in five health care 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 alone, Médecins du Monde was able to provide 98,390 health consultations, 3,577 sexual and reproductive health care sessions and 30 training sessions to health care workers. Médecins du Monde is also able to provide medication to the most vulnerable of refugees and mental health support.

The Beirut Explosion

The Beirut explosion only exacerbates the need for humanitarian aid in Lebanon. Fortunately, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations rose to the challenge, 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 for humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Of all the contributors, the EU was the largest contributor, offering €63 million. Since 2011, the EU has in total offered €660 million 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 alone, this type of assistance was able to provide aid to more than 338,000 people within the country. Much of this type of aid went toward purchasing essential items and services.

Lebanon faces several challenges, one of them being its large population of refugees. However, many humanitarian organizations are offering assistance to the country and its refugees. Today, humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon. As members of the international community, individuals must do their 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

Action in Lebanon
When people think of poverty in the Middle East, they may not always picture Lebanon. The country Lebanon is a small yet very ethnically diverse nation in the Middle East. Sunni and Shia Muslims, Maronite Christians and other groups populate it. Ethnic divisions and sectarian power struggles led to a civil war that lasted 15 years. While the war was ultimately ended and a new republic formed, divisions remain. Now, positive action in Lebanon is essential for the nation, region and the global community’s well-being.

Lebanon in the 21st Century

Political divisions deepened when on Feb. 14, 2005, Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, died in a car bombing assassination. Two movements formed in the wake of this tragedy. One was the March 8th Alliance, led by current President Michel Aoun and supported by Hezbollah. The other was the March 14th Alliance led by Rafic’s son Saad Hariri. Each side receives backing from different, foreign nations. Moreover, the current political struggle reflects a greater proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

A new government formed in 2016 and power has since been shared between the factions of Hariri and Aoun. While this has led to a more peaceful nation, it has also caused political paralysis — choking the economy. The government has also been plagued with corruption. In this same vein, protests in 2019 led to the resignation of Saad Hariri as prime minister and the formation of an anti-corruption panel.

Despite this, the country continues to suffer from a government stagnated by political divisions and corruption. Despite Lebanon’s status as one of the Middle East’s wealthier countries, its people do not benefit from that wealth. Almost 50% of the country’s population now lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, with the spread of COVID-19, the country’s economic crisis will only worsen.

Why People Should Act

A recent explosion in Beirut (Lebanon’s capital) is just the latest crisis in a country beset with political and economic strife. Many countries in Europe have already pledged aid to the people of Lebanon. It is imperative that the U.S. also take action in Lebanon. Not only does the U.S. have an obligation to help people in need, but also keeping Lebanon from further destabilizing will be essential in ensuring a more peaceful Middle East. If Lebanon’s government collapses, then the country could have a repeat of the civil war with different militant groups emerging and vying for control. Poverty would increase, many Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the country would become displaced. Tragically, more deaths would result from sectarian violence.

However, if the U.S. takes action in Lebanon, the U.S. itself benefits as well. By helping Syrian refugees in the country, Americans would be able to prevent the influx of refugees in the U.S. Lebanon is also a strong importer of U.S. goods. Rescuing its economy from collapse would advance U.S. trade policy and generate more prosperity for both nations.

Who is Helping?

There are currently many groups helping by taking action in Lebanon, right now. One such group is the nongovernmental organization, Humanity and Inclusion. It has been working to better the lives of people all over the world with disabilities as well as economic vulnerabilities. When it began in 1982, its goal was victim assistance, but it has also become responsible for preventing injuries through weapon and landmine clearance, risk education activities and much more. Since 1992, it has been working in Lebanon, engaging in helpful practices such as post-surgical physical therapy and psychological first aid. Its work is very impactful, lasting throughout the decades. In 1997, it received the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to ban landmines. In 2019, it reached more than 2 million people in 63 different countries.

Other great ways to get involved include staying informed and educating others about Lebanon. It is never too late to make a difference.

Isaac Boorstin
Photo: USAID

Hunger in Lebanon
Three recent events in Lebanon have crucially impacted its ability to feed its people. Conversely, there are three organizations or political actors working to combat the devastating hunger and guide Lebanon toward food security. Here are three recent crises and three organizations that are working to provide aid and reduce hunger in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

On August 4, 2020, an explosion devastated the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Without a functioning port, the country is missing 65% to 80% of its food imports. The explosion destroyed 15,000 metric tons of wheat and the main grain silos. The disaster at the port has exacerbated hunger in Lebanon by preventing and delaying access to food, while also increasing the cost of imported food.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

As of early August 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) agreed to distribute 5,000 food parcels to families currently suffering from hunger in Lebanon in light of the explosion. Each package includes necessities such as rice, sugar and oil and contains enough ingredients to feed five people for one month. Moreover, the World Food Programme has partnered with the government’s National Poverty Targeting Programme to provide over 100,000 Lebanese people with prepaid debit cards so they can purchase groceries. Lastly, the organization, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered 8.5 metric tons of surgical and trauma equipment to Beirut two days after the explosion. Not only will this equipment help those the disaster affected, but it will also allow the country to focus on repairing the port, which is crucial to its survival.

The Challenges of COVID-19

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has made it significantly more difficult for families to put food on the table, and Lebanon is no exception. Relieving the devastating effects of the virus has become more important than addressing food insecurity. In a recent study that the World Food Programme conducted, due to the virus, one in three workers have found themselves unemployed and one in five workers have seen a pay cut. Moreover, there has been a country-wide halt in channeling resources toward hunger, as they have all gone toward the containment of COVID-19.

The United Nations

The United Nations has involved itself in providing aid to Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF, an organization that provides aid to children across the globe, has created an eight-point plan for countries in the Middle East and North Africa dealing with the combined effects of COVID-19 and food insecurity. There are three points in particular that are closely related to the inability to afford food due to COVID-19. These points include establishing job and income security for those who perform agricultural or casual labor and instigating social protection schemes and community programs for the benefit of vulnerable groups and those who are unemployed due to lockdowns. The aforementioned will ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. Another point involves creating a food security and nutrition surveillance system that will collect and update necessary information to identify populations at risk and address factors that will negatively affect said populations.

Furthermore, the UNHCR, a refugee agency, has allocated $43 million as of late August 2020 in response to the coronavirus and its effects. This aid will allow Lebanon to purchase proper medical equipment and create isolation units, both of which will help treat those suffering from the virus and slow its spread. As a result, Lebanon can renew its feverous efforts on solving hunger.

Political and Economic Turmoil

Since October 2019, an extensive list including corruption and civil unrest has led Lebanon’s economy to the tip of a very steep iceberg. The Lebanese pound has since lost over 80% of its value, thousands of businesses have gone under and candlelight is the new normal. Due to these extreme changes in the political and economic climates, hunger in Lebanon has reached an unprecedented level, affecting citizens and refugees alike. To bridge their income gap, citizens have reported spending less money on food, an intuitively counteractive response. As for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon due to civil war in their home country, nearly 200,000 have reported going 24 hours without eating, and 360,000 have reported skipping meals.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has been providing help to Lebanon. The branch of this organization based in Great Britain employs tradesmen and builders from the Lebanese and Syrian communities in order to complete its various infrastructure projects in Lebanon. For example, empty and distressed buildings that vulnerable families reside have undergone rehabilitation. Rehabilitation efforts included water and sanitation upgrades, heat and solar light installation and the addition of necessary furniture such as beds. During this process, the spaces were either free or had reduced rent. Not only does this benefit the community by providing jobs which in turn boosts the economy, but it also allows families to focus their resources on food as opposed to shelter, an issue specific to refugees.

Despite how daunting the aforementioned issues are, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Various global organizations are taking action to bring attention to and end hunger in Lebanon. As resources and support continue to pour into the country, the people of Lebanon will begin to see brighter days.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

ngos in lebanonBordered by Syria, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon is a Middle Eastern nation of almost 7 million citizens. Its history has only grown in complexity since it gained independence from France in 1944. Lebanese people have faced civil war, political and economic instability, border disputes and human rights violations into the present day. Thankfully, many NGOs in Lebanon work to address these issues. NGOs have supported the Lebanese people in suppressing terror, promoting gender equality, ending militarization, advocating for human rights and recovering from the Beirut explosion. Paramount to Lebanon’s security and future are not just improved government and policies, but also these NGOs on the ground.

Terrorism

In 2019 alone, four major terrorist groups posed an ongoing threat to Lebanon’s national security. Three acts of terrorism that year sparked an unprecedented governmental and legislative response. Lebanon is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and recently launched a national Preventing Violent Extremism Coordination Unit. However, the Lebanese people’s long-standing lack of trust in government remains. This is where NGOs in Lebanon come in.

Since 1985, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American NGO, has promoted peace in Lebanon. The NGO identifies Lebanese entities actively promoting terror from within the government, such as Green Without Borders. The institute proposes counteracting these entities from abroad by publishing research and pushing policies for financial transparency. Its work is therefore vital to an effective government free from ties to terrorism.

Gender Inequality

Even though Lebanese women got the right to vote in 1952, gender inequities and violence remain among Lebanon’s most critical issues. In 2020, Lebanon ranked 145th among 153 countries in closing the gender gap. This ranking represents variables such as economic participation, educational attainment, health, survival and political empowerment. With women holding just 4.7% of parliamentary seats, NGOs in Lebanon are working to pave the way for female representation in government to empower marginalized citizens.

While global humanitarian groups have funded many gender equity campaigns in Lebanon, NGOs in Lebanon, like the feminist collective Nasawiya, spearhead much of the cultural change. Nasawiya advocates not just for the humane treatment and representation of women, but also for all genders and identities within Lebanon. With 11 projects underway, Nasawiya lobbies the Lebanese government and provides resources for women affected victimized by gender violence.

Militarized Justice Systems

Although Lebanon is officially a unitary multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government, its justice systems are increasingly militarizing. Lebanon’s controversial pattern of suppressing peaceful civilian protests has garnered international attention as its use of military courts grows. In Lebanon, trials in military courts lack qualified judges, permit torture-induced confessions as evidence, issue inconsistent and lengthy sentences and fail to deliver due process. This affects more than just adults. Indeed, the Union for Protection of Juveniles in Lebanon identified 355 children tried before the military courts in 2016 alone.

As the line between the Lebanese justice system and the military blurs, prosecutors have even brought charges against human rights lawyers and activists who oppose them. NGOs like Helem, which advocates for LGBT rights, are working to hold courts accountable to their victims. The International Center for Not-For-Profit Law and other NGOs in Lebanon have launched further investigations into Lebanon’s militarized courts. By publicizing records and providing credible research, they promote justice in Lebanon.

Migrant and Refugee Rights

An estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees and over 250,000 migrant workers from neighboring countries reside in Lebanon. Unfortunately, exclusionary immigration and refugee policies have created a human rights crisis. Migrant workers and refugees in Lebanon work in unregulated conditions, lack permanent residency and are victims of mass evictions. In 2017, 76% of refugee and migrant households lived below the poverty line. Additionally, 77% experienced food insecurity and 36% lacked an employed family member.

NGOs in Lebanon like International Alert advocate both for reforming the justice system and improving refugee and migrant rights. International Alert promotes policies targeted at improving legal conditions for these marginalized populations in Lebanon. Care, another NGO, also works on the ground to provide interim resources and housing for refugees and migrants in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

When 3,030 tons of ammonium nitrate stored near a port in Beirut caught on fire and exploded in early August 2020, at least 200 people died, over 6,000 were injured and several hundred remain missing. The severe damage inflicted on some 70,000 homes left an estimated 300,000 Lebanese homeless. The Lebanese Red Cross met a large part of the urgent need for humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people affected by the explosion. This NGO has provided free medical care to over 23,700 people  through 36 health centers and nine mobile medical units.

The Lebanese Red Cross is also providing shelter for 1,000 displaced families and is expanding to help a projected 10,000 families. Additionally, the organization provides families with food, water, masks, gloves and other supplies. Another facet of this NGO, the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, reconnects separated families. It also provides mental health and counseling resources for victims.

NGOs in Lebanon Continue the Fight

While the Lebanese people continue to suffer from a legacy of conflict, instability, inequality and oppression, NGOs are working hard to help mitigate these critical issues. NGOs in Lebanon strive to improve human rights to help bring peace and prosperity to this Middle Eastern nation.

– Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Wikimedia Commons