Over the past two years, Lebanon has struggled with multiple challenges, including economic and financial collapse, political deadlock, as well as the disastrous effects of the August 2020 explosions in the capital Beirut, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in neighboring Syria.
Najat Rochdi, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon, said many people are now in situations unimaginable even a year ago, when Lebanon was considered a high-middle-income country.
Families that barely survive
“More and more Lebanese households cannot afford basic expenses such as food, health, electricity, water, internet, fuel and education. For the most vulnerable among the poor, the impact is extremely devastating, and survival has become their only goal.” she said, speaking at the launch in Beirut.
It is estimated that no less than 78 percent of the Lebanese population, or three million people, live below the poverty line, while extreme poverty has risen to 36 percent.
Famine has become “a growing reality” for thousands of families and acute malnutrition rates have increased significantly among children under the age of five.
For ordinary people, the situation is “a living nightmare,” she said, causing unspeakable suffering and suffering for the most vulnerable.
Fear of the future
Ms Rochdi told reporters about the countless “heartbreaking, sometimes scandalous and shocking” stories she heard during recent field visits. “I met breadwinner mothers who were ‘ashamed’ to wait in lines to pick up their food package,” she recalls.
“Never in their lives did they depend on others to feed their children, they told me with tears triggered by feelings of despair. Still, their main concern is putting food on the table and getting a job that pays the rent. They worry about their children’s safety, their education and their hazy future.”
Education has been hit hard. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the education of at least 1.2 million children, including Syrian and Palestinian refugees, has been disrupted for more than a year.
‘Great price’ of care
The Lebanese public health system has also “pushed over its limits,” Ms Rochdi added, due to the dual impact of the economic crisis and the pandemic. Both skilled health workers and teachers have fled the country.
“Amid growing shortages of drugs and medical supplies, people are increasingly unable to access and afford healthcare. Pharmacy shelves are empty, hospital supplies are running low and home medicine cabinets are empty,” she said.
“Cancer patients pay a high price, with the majority being forced to stop their life-saving treatment. And this is unacceptable. This is like a ‘death penalty’ for all those whose lives depend heavily on drugs!”
Meanwhile, electricity shortages and the potential collapse of the water supply have hit critical services, including hospitals, and put the school year at risk. Ms Rochdi warned that if the situation worsens, up to four million people will be affected, including one million refugees.
Saving lives, alleviating hardship
The ERP includes 119 projects in the sectors of education, food security, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, child protection and protection against gender-based violence.
It also includes a logistical operational emergency plan aimed at establishing a fuel supply chain. The aim is to ensure that humanitarian workers can continue their work, but also to provide fuel for a limited period of time to critical health, water and sanitation facilities across Lebanon.
Activities are focused on providing direct support, including the provision of food and cash assistance to approximately 500,000 people, improved access to physicians for approximately 250,000 people, nutritional surveillance and nutritional supplementation for 400,000 young children and mothers, and the provision of remote and personal teaching to children.
Last August, donors attending a conference to increase support for Lebanon, co-chaired by the UN and France, pledged $370 million to fund the plan.
“We are counting on their boundless generosity to urgently deliver on their promises so that the emergency plan’s life-saving projects can be implemented in a timely manner. The funding they provide will save lives and make a huge difference in alleviating the hardships of the most vulnerable,” Ms Rochdi said.
In the meantime, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in New York, as well as another fund focused on Lebanon, managed by the agency for humanitarian affairs, OCHA, paid out $10 million last month to support the fuel delivery component of the ERP. finance.