LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — With an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees living within its borders, Lebanon is currently hosting the largest number of refugees per capita and per square kilometer in the world. Within this refugee population, however, a reported nine out of 10 Syrian refugees are currently living in extreme poverty, a situation the rest of the population in the country experiences as well. Currently, Lebanon has limited capabilities to support these refugee groups; as many of its own citizens are now facing intense poverty themselves. On June 20, however, the United Nations officially launched a $3.2 billion plan for Lebanon, known officially as the 2022 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP).
If funded, the plan will work to bring relief to this refugee crisis in Lebanon as well as many of the Lebanese people now currently facing harsh socio-economic obstacles. Here are some key things to know about the plan as well as what it would achieve.
Where the Aid is Going
According to U.N. Lebanon, the $3.2 billion plan for Lebanon will in part aim to deliver “critical assistance” to roughly 3.2 million people living in Lebanon who are currently in need. Specifically, the aid will aim to assist approximately “1.5 million Lebanese, 1.5 million displaced Syrians and more than 209,000 Palestinian refugees” in the forms of both cash-based and food assistance to families and individuals.
Along with this direct aid to both the refugee and Lebanese populations, other key targets of the aid fall in the realm of Lebanon’s public sector. Maintenance of public infrastructure, the provision of services and relief for local economies have all emerged as additional priorities of this aid to Lebanon.
A Country in the Midst of Crisis
In 2011, the Syrian Civil War sparked one of the largest refugee crises in history, displacing an estimated 6.8 million people to date. A great number of these displaced peoples fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Since the beginning of this refugee crisis, the Government of Lebanon has made support for these displaced peoples a top priority. However, Lebanon’s own recent socio-economic crises have stretched many resources thin, making sufficient support for refugees as well as its own people harder to maintain.
With inflation reaching all-time highs, Lebanon’s currency depreciating and unemployment affecting 29.6% of the Lebanese workforce, poverty in Lebanon has risen exponentially in recent years, the U.N. reported.
Speaking at the launch of the 2022 LCRP in Beirut, Najat Rochdi, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon, described the significance of this critical point in Lebanon’s current crises and the country’s need for continued support from the international community: “With the continuing impact of the Syria crisis and the current economic crisis in Lebanon pushing everyone to the brink, partners’ joint efforts to support refugees and the host community through the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan remain essential… It is important that municipalities are supported to keep basic services running amid massive capacity gaps,” the U.N. Lebanon reported.
The Past and Future
If the past is anything to go by, U.N. humanitarian reports indicate that the organization’s 2015 LCRP program, which gave $9 billion in aid to Lebanon, resulted in tangible improvements for both the Lebanese and refugee populations, according to the U.N.
In light of this past success, an additional $3.2 billion plan for Lebanon could certainly give its government and the U.N. the critical resources and opportunities needed to alleviate many of the more recent negative trends coming out of the country.
Lebanon’s current Minister for Social Affairs, Hector Hajjar, also speaking at the launch of the program in Beirut, urged the international community to keep this sentiment in mind: “We urge you to stand by Lebanon, its people and government and by the displaced to respond to their urgent needs and work together to overcome obstacles to their safe return to their homeland,” the U.N. Lebanon reported.
– Riley Wooldridge