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Lebanon faces one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with nearly 4 million people in need of food and other assistance, but less than half getting aid because of a lack of funding, a U.N. official said Thursday.
Imran Riza, the U.N. humanitarian chief for Lebanon, adds that the amount of assistance the world body is giving out is “much less than the minimum survival level” that it normally distributes.
Over the past four years, he said, Lebanon has faced a “compounding set of multiple crises ” that the World Bank describes as one of the 10 worst financial and economic crises since the mid-19th century. This has led to the humanitarian needs of people across all population sectors increasing dramatically, he said.
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Since the financial meltdown began in October 2019, the country’s political class — blamed for decades of corruption and mismanagement — has been resisting economic and financial reforms requested by the international community.
Lebanon started talks with the International Monetary Fund in 2020 to try to secure a bailout, but since reaching a preliminary agreement last year, the country’s leaders have been reluctant to implement needed changes.
Riza noted Lebanon has been without a president for almost a year and a lot of its institutions aren’t working, and there is still no political solution in Syria.
According to the United Nations, four million people in Lebanon are in need of food but less than half have received humanitarian aid.
The U.N. estimates about 3.9 million people need humanitarian help in Lebanon, including 2.1 million Lebanese, 1.5 million Syrians, 180,000 Palestinian refugees, over 31,000 Palestinians from Syria, and 81,500 migrants.
Last year, Riza said, the U.N. provided aid to about a million Syrians and slightly less than 950,000 Lebanese.
“So everything is on a negative track,” Riza said. In 2022, the U.N. received more or less 40% of funding it needed and the trend so far this year is similar, “but overall the resources are really going down and the needs are increasing.”
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“In a situation like Lebanon, it doesn’t have the attention that some other situations have, and so we are extremely concerned about it,” he said.
According to the U.N. humanitarian office, more than 12 years since the start of the conflict in Syria, Lebanon hosts “the highest number of displaced persons per capita and per square kilometer in the world.”
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“And instead what we’re seeing is a more tense situation within Lebanon,” Riza said. There is a lot of “very negative rhetoric” and disinformation in Lebanon about Syrian refugees that “raises tensions, and, of course, it raises worries among the Syrian refugees,” he said.
With some Lebanese politicians calling Syrian refugees “an existential threat,” Riza said he has been talking to journalists to get the facts out on the overall needs in Lebanon and what the U.N. is trying to do to help all those on the basis of need — “not of status or a population.”