Posts

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

Human Rights in LebanonIt may not be evident walking down the crowded streets of Beirut, but according to the U.N. Development Programme, more than one in four citizens in Lebanon are currently living in poverty. What is even more shocking is that this number has climbed nearly 66 percent since 2011.

Fortunately, there are many organizations with missions working on human rights in Lebanon to alleviate not only the causes, but the symptoms of poverty. Two of these organizations include the Insan Association and KAFA Enough Violence and Exploitation (KAFA).

The Insan Association works with all marginalized groups in Lebanon, including asylum-seekers and migrant workers. Its mission is to promote human rights in Lebanon through being a voice for individuals who do not have a voice of their own so that they can reach their full socio-economic potential. Insan does this through what is defined on its website as a “scheme consisting of educational, psychosocial, and legal services.”

One way Insan furthers human rights in Lebanon is through the Insan School and Integration Program. The program assists children who have been removed from public schools in Lebanon due to various reasons (including a lack of language ability or psychological or social issues that are not addressed by schools). These programs provide the necessary support for children to integrate back into the public school system. Once they are integrated back, it continues to guide the children until they find a job or enter higher education. These services include providing tutoring or psycho-social support.

KAFA is an NGO dedicated to human rights in Lebanon as well. It achieves this through ensuring a society that is free of discrimination against women and children. KAFA (meaning “enough”) supports its mission through introducing new laws and reforming existing ones and conducting research. It also provides training to empower women and children who have been victims of violence. Its focus is on family violence, trafficking of women, child protection, and sexual abuse cases.

One successful program through KAFA includes the “Citadel of Protection” training. Since 2014, there has been training given to more than 300 service providers living in the area of Bekaa along with 1275 children, 400 teenagers and 935 caregivers. It includes information on children’s sexual development, children’s rights and their protection from gender-based violence which includes early marriage and sexual abuse.

It is organizations like these that will hopefully continue providing services that assist human rights in Lebanon. In these ways, these organizations can get to the root causes of poverty instead of focusing on simply the symptoms.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Organizations That Help People In LebanonWith crises come many people willing to help. The result of war in Lebanon borders has brought hard times, leaving Lebanon with a high amount of refugees. Tending to these refugees is the focus for many organizations and foreign aid. The response to the crisis has been addressed with the help of international organizations.

American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) addresses the development and needs of communities in Palestine and Lebanon. ANERA is doing its part to help people in Lebanon by helping the region become more self-sufficient. Its goal is to ensure its projects secure long-term viability.

Today, ANERA is responding to the needs of Syrian refugees with programs. These programs have been helping people in Lebanon cope with their displacement. They are helping them build better futures, providing math and literacy education, making safe schools. Programs are teaching job skills and sports, as well as providing medicines, treatments and awareness.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 organizations determined to change the world. Oxfam works to find ways to help people lift themselves out of poverty. With a six-factor strategy, Oxfam seeks to overcome poverty by promoting fundamental rights and empowering women to drive human development. Also, when disaster strikes, Oxfam is present, working to secure global food supplies, and Oxfam enables access to services such as health and education.

Today, Oxfam has worked with others to address governance issues, provide safe water, and worked towards protection in the region, enabling women to take on more leadership roles in the community.

Along with these well-known organizations, many others are working to help people in Lebanon. Not only is aid possible through these organizations, but ordinary citizens may also help as well by supporting them. Donating to help citizens in Lebanon is the number one way to help, and it is the very action that enables these organizations to do these extraordinary acts on the ground.

Brandi Gomez
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in LebanonThe poverty rate in Lebanon is increasing, but so is the GDP, although not to its full potential, according to the World Bank. The influx of refugees has caused some challenges to country’s GDP and strain public finances. But Lebanon remains one of the wealthiest economies in the South Mediterranean region.

Lebanon is a free market economy that relies on service-oriented business such as banking and tourism for its income. A civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1990 slowed economic progress. In the years that followed, Lebanon’s government struggled to maintain its economy which resulted in heavy borrowing in the 1990s. But in the early 2000s, the government made improvements to the economy. Foreign investment still has many restrictions, delays and obstacles, and the main source of income is tourism.

The GDP of Lebanon increased an estimated 1.8 percent in 2016, improving from the 1.3 percent increase in 2015. With that said, the influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon created challenges with the economy. According to independent Lebanese government sources, up to 1.5 million Syrian refugees (equal to a quarter of the population of Lebanon) have taken refuge in Lebanon since 2011.

This influx of people strained public finances, service delivery and the environment in Lebanon. The poverty rate in Lebanon is expected to worsen because of increasing income inequality. About 200,000 Lebanese became impoverished due to the Syrian crisis, adding to the one million already classified as poor. Additionally, another 250,000 to 300,000 people became unemployed.

Even though the Syrian crisis caused the poverty rate in Lebanon to increase, the GDP is also increasing. There need to be some solutions of where and how to take care of refugees, while also distributing money to Lebanese citizens.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr


Three of the most major diseases in Lebanon are coronary heart disease, stroke, and hypertension, according to World Life Expectancy data. These ranked first, second and ninth, respectively. All three diseases are types of cardiovascular diseases, meaning that they affect the heart and blood vessels.

Coronary heart disease is defined as the buildup of plaque over time within the arteries. This plaque can rupture and cause blood clots, or it can weaken the arteries so much that it prevents oxygen from flowing through the blood to the heart, causing a heart attack. A stroke occurs with the interruption or reduction of blood flow to the brain, which may result in the death of brain tissue. Hypertension or high blood pressure is when the heart pumps so much blood that too-thin artery walls cannot properly manage it. This can lead to heart disease or stroke if left untreated, as it weakens heart muscles.

Although cardiovascular diseases account for 31 percent of worldwide deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO), these same diseases cause 47 percent of all deaths in Lebanon. According to World Life Expectancy, hypertension leads to 2.89 percent of deaths in Lebanon, while strokes cause 10.43 percent. Coronary heart disease itself results in 34.41 percent of all deaths in Lebanon.

One of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease is smoking, which damages blood vessels and other structures of the heart. According to World Life Expectancy data, Lebanon ranks eighth in the world for smoking, which puts its residents at greater risk for developing the major diseases in Lebanon.

The good news is that, in 2014, the Lebanese government partnered with the WHO and began working to prevent smoking in the country. Together they created laws against smoking in public places such as universities, restaurants and hospitals and established a fine for breaking these laws. According to the WHO, Lebanon also removed tobacco advertisements, put warning labels on packages and began a recovery program for smokers to help combat smoking and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr


For citizens, healthcare in Lebanon has become hard to come by. Most people in the country struggle to afford access to health care, despite government attempts at regulating expenses. Now, due to the recent influx of Syrian refugees, access for anyone in Lebanon has become a luxury. Here are the three things you need to know about healthcare in Lebanon.

  1. Healthcare is increasingly becoming scarce
    Lebanon is a smaller country with a population of 3.7 million. Most live in the capital city of Beirut. Pricing is a major issue in the country’s healthcare system. The high prices have left about 50 percent of the nation uninsured from any type of health coverage.Other factors, such as a serious lack of medical supplies, have affected citizens healthcare in Lebanon. Hospitals have been reported denying access to those who lack insurance. This has to do with the shortages of hospital beds, medicine and staff. In an interview with al-fanarmedia.org, physician Kamal Mohanna stated, “we have 7,000 nurses in Lebanon, but we need 29,000.”
  2. Syrian refugees have put a strain on resources
    Currently, 1.5 million Syrian refugees have entered Lebanon. These refugees find themselves sitting in refugee camps where health hazards are a daily occurrence. The influx of people has affected the already crippling inability to access healthcare in Lebanon, affecting both citizens and refugees.The number of families nears hospitals has also increased by 1,400 percent. The refugees themselves are struggling to find health providers and money to pay for said healthcare services. At the beginning of the refugee crisis, due to the increasing strain on medical supplies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) became a free provider of healthcare. Soon after, the influx of aid forced the organization to begin charging patients a two-dollar fee to receive care.The UNHCR has also lowered the percentage of coverage for emergency patients. The commission formerly covered 85 percent of healthcare costs, but now only covers 75 percent.
  3. Government-funded efforts barely help
    The Lebanese government has tried to implement new ways for citizens to have access to healthcare. The National Social Security Fund was created to allow all those who work to receive healthcare aid. Funding is dispersed based on a citizen’s income. The fund covers 10 percent of hospital costs, along with 20 percent of medicine and exam costs, while 100 percent of coverage is dispersed to patients who are terminally ill.

According to al-akhbar.com, “those enrolled with the National Social Security Fund lose their benefits upon retirement or loss of job, or in other words when they need them the most.” This is an example of how hard it is to receive and maintain healthcare coverage in Lebanon.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr


Lebanon is known around the Middle East and the region of North Africa (MENA) as one of the leaders in progressive values. The country has prided itself on ensuring equal rights for women and men in its national constitution. Despite many accomplishments, women’s political participation in Lebanon remains one of the lowest percentages in the MENA region. What is happening in Lebanon that is keeping women out of politics?

Traditional Lack of Female Participation in Politics

In 1953, women in Lebanon were granted the right to vote and participate in politics. Since then, only 17 women have held positions in politics. As of December 2016, less than three percent of government seats have been held by women.

In 2005, women’s participation in politics reached its peak. Of the 128 seats in parliament, six women held parliamentary positions. This was the highest amount of women holding seats in parliament at the same time in the nation’s history. Today, only one woman holds a parliamentary position.

Changing Laws, Unchanging Culture

Under Article 7 of the Lebanese constitution, gender equality is guaranteed, but personal status laws are not. Instead, personal status laws are in the hands of religious, who are not under the jurisdiction of the government, and therefore, gender equality laws do not apply to them. This type of inequality flows into households, where under family codes and citizen laws, women are still owned by their husband and fathers. This type of second-class citizen culture affects women’s political participation in Lebanon. Many women are unable to take action due to their financial and marital status.

Women in Lebanon who vote do so for their families and not for their preferred candidates. Some women are not allowed to vote for candidates outside of their kinship. Still, women’s political participation in Lebanon is important. Women have the ability to sway votes in their constituencies, but often do not use the full extent of their power. The average amount of women who actually wield their vote is about 16 percent. Out of the 18 constituencies, only five of them see participation from women, between 16 to 50 percent.

Reform on the Horizon

The women’s quota within the Lebanese government has become key for women’s political participation in Lebanon. According to hivos.com, the women’s quota can be used, “either in the form of reserved seats in parliament, or (preferably) obliging party or electoral lists to contain a certain percentage of women candidates.”

Although this mandate was enforced, women still rely on NGOs to voice their political stances within the government. In Lebanon, there are 18 political parties, but seven dominate. Practically all of these groups are led by males, and most parties led by females have turned into NGOs, which have a network of women working together in order to affect change.

Until women’s voices are allowed to be amplified and actually heard, women will continue fighting.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lebanon
Poverty in Lebanon is caused by various factors. Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Lebanon has seen an influx of refugees, resulting in an increase in poverty, something that has been an issue for quite some time. According to the Nations Encyclopedia, the income gap between social classes has increased over the last 10 years. Both the upper and middle class have seen an increase in their income since 1991, but the rest of the country is not earning much money at all as the income of many has dropped below the poverty line.

OXFAM International, a nonprofit that fights poverty, addresses how the issue of poverty is multidimensional. OXFAM International works to address both the cause and impact of poverty in Lebanon, as well as in over 90 other countries. According to its website, the number of people living under the poverty line in Lebanon has increased by 66 percent since 2011. The World Bank discusses goals for economic improvement in Lebanon, including the creation of new jobs and the installment of an improved education system in order to spark an interest in business related jobs in the country’s youth.

Despite Lebanon’s continued economic struggles and the governmental issues behind them, there is still hope for improving poverty in Lebanon. According to data from the World Bank,  between 1992 and 2014 Lebanon’s GDP grew by an average of 4.4 percent, varying from year to year. The data also addressed the creation of new jobs between 2004 and 2009, when varying amounts of growth was seen, particularly in the trade, service and construction industry. According to the World Bank, 15 percent of the population emigrated from Lebanon in 2010, which is a factor in the economic improvement that the country has seen. This emigration increased employment opportunities and therefore sparked economic growth in the country as a whole.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

Where are the Palestinian Refugees Camps?
The 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict marked the beginning of a long journey for Palestinians. During the war, approximately 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes in what is now Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories and became refugees. Following the 1948 war, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was established by the U.N. General Assembly to provide relief and works programs for Palestinian refugees.

The UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The definition was later expanded to include all descendants of male Palestinian refugees, including adopted children. Consequently, 68 years after the 1948 war and subsequent conflicts and uprisings, the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned from 700,000 to roughly 5 million.

Most of the refugees sought asylum in neighboring Arab countries, where temporary camps were established and have since become permanent settlements. Nearly one-third, or 1.6 million, of Palestinian refugees live in 58 camps in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The remaining two-thirds primarily live in or near the cities of host countries and territories, including those internally displaced in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories.

Gaza Strip
The Gaza Strip is a tiny enclave on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea bordering Israel and Egypt. The territory has a population of 1.7 million, of which 1.3 million are registered Palestinian refugees. Subject to a blockade on all sides, residents of Gaza have severely restricted freedom of movement, and Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Continuous conflict between Hamas and Israel has also worsened the conditions within the Gaza Strip and has internally displaced thousands since the original 1948 conflict. As a result, 80 percent of the population is dependent on international assistance, and the eight refugee camps regularly face shortages of food, clean drinking water, medicine and opportunities to lift themselves out of the camps.

West Bank
The West Bank is an Israeli occupied territory located between Israel and Jordan with a population of 2.7 million. There are nearly 775,000 registered refugees living in the territory, mostly living in major towns and rural areas. However, around a quarter of the registered refugees live in 19 camps scattered throughout the territory. Although conditions are generally better than Gaza, refugees living in camps in the West Bank also face squalid living conditions and major freedom of movement restrictions.

Syria
Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, thousands of Palestinians fled to Syria where they were generally welcomed and treated well. They were granted the same duties and responsibilities as Syrian citizens, other than political rights and nationality. As a result, by 2003 there were over 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria living in nine camps and in Syrian cities.

Syria’s ongoing civil war has severely exacerbated the plight of Palestinian refugees in the country, leaving many in besieged or hard to reach areas. Before the conflict began in 2011, UNRWA estimated there were 526,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the country. Today, many of the camps have been deserted or destroyed, and the refugees that remain in Syria continually experience a deterioration of humanitarian conditions. For instance, the Yarmouk Camp, located just outside Damascus and home to roughly 160,000 Palestinian refugees prior to the war, recently experienced fierce clashes between rebel groups, ISIS and the Syrian Army. The fighting left nearly 18,000 refugees without food, water and medical supplies, and resulted in a severe Typhoid outbreak.

Lebanon
Situated on the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Syria, Lebanon has a population of 6.2 million, of which 450,000 are registered Palestinian refugees. The country is also home to thousands of undocumented and unregistered Palestinians, with estimates ranging from 10,000 to 40,000. Overall, Palestinians are thought to make up 10 percent of the total Lebanese population.

Around half of all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon reside in 12 refugee camps. Although many of these camps have existed for decades, they routinely suffer from high rates of poverty, unemployment and other issues such as overcrowding and lack of sufficient infrastructure. Those living outside the registered Palestinian refugee camps suffer continued discrimination, are denied basic rights and are even barred from working in certain professions. Consequently, Lebanon has the highest percentage of Palestinian refugees living in abject poverty among all other countries and territories UNRWA operates in.

Jordan
Jordan shares a border with Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the West Bank, and has a population of 8.2 million. Jordan is home to the highest number of Palestinian refugees, with 2.1 million registered and thousands more that have fled Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. Palestinians account for approximately a quarter of the total Jordanian population.

Most, but not all, Palestinian refugees have been granted full Jordanian citizenship and have been well integrated into society for decades. However, nearly 370,000 are settled in ten camps throughout the country. An additional 10,000 that have crossed the border from Syria live in camps along the border that have increasingly dire conditions and residents are prohibited from leaving.

Originally forced to flee fighting in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinian refugees have long endured turbulent and unstable conditions since leaving home. Many have fled war only to be met with more violence and conflict in places such as Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. Many are faced with severe human rights violations and are denied freedom of movement, leaving many to be born, live and die in the same place. In addition to these issues, the right of refugees to ultimately return to their homeland remains a major obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

For now, Palestinians remain part of the harrowing refugee crisis of the 21st century.

-Brendan Hennessey

Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
As a result of exhausting their savings, more than two-thirds, 70 percent, of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living below the Lebanese extreme poverty line of $3.84 per day.

Syria’s civil war has lasted five years killing more than 250,000 people and leaving 11 million displaced. In Lebanon, Syrian refugees make up about a fifth of the population.

Refugees have been forced to spend less on healthcare, cut out meals, pull children out of school and send them to work. Many children work in agricultural fields for as little as $4 a day. Families are borrowing money to cover their essential needs, such as rent, food and health care, putting 90 percent of them in debt.

With no end to the war in sight, aid agencies and governments are finding new ways to help refugees earn a living.

Funding from government and aid agencies has increased from $1.06 billion last year to $1.38 billion this year; however, the number of refugees has also risen from 4 million last year to 4.8 million this year. In February 2016, U.N. and aid agencies appealed for $4.54 billion to aid the Syrian refugee crisis.

Donors have pledged funding and assistance to help create over 1 million jobs for refugees. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey also agreed to open up their labor markets to refugees.

In northern Lebanon, the Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) handed out relief supplies, including food and detergents, to 250 Syrian families in the town of Mohammara. The relief effort is part of an ongoing humanitarian operation carried out by the Kuwait philanthropic organization.

In eastern Lebanon, KRCS handed out fresh water to 1,200 Syrian refugees in Al-Bekaa. The water has been transferred from a treatment plant that was built by KRCS and Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) in early 2016.

Aid agencies, governments and KRCS are working together to offer help and assistance needed to ease the suffering of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr