Extending emergency plan, UN says a staggering 2.2 million Lebanese require emergency aid

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UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon Najat Rochdi during her announcement of the extension of Lebanon’s Emergency Response Plan at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia headquarters today said that some 2.2 million Lebanese citizens are in need of emergency humanitarian aid.

The Emergency Response Plan (ERP), which was initially planned from August 2021 to July 2022 is extended until the end of December 2022 to address the increasingly dire humanitarian needs among the most vulnerable Lebanese, migrants, and Palestine refugees in Lebanon.

A recent country-wide multi-sector needs assessment showed that humanitarian needs have increased by 31 percent between 2021 and 2021. According to Rochdi, in addition to 2.2 million vulnerable Lebanese, 86,200 migrants and 207,800 Palestine refugees in Lebanon in need of emergency aid, in addition to 1.5 million Syrian refugees (there are currently about 839,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency, but the actual number is believed to be higher). This means that over 4 million individuals in Lebanon are “unable to afford or even access health, food, electricity, water, education, and wastewater management, not to mention life-saving protection services.”

The same assessment revealed that 85 percent of Lebanese households reported that they did not receive any type of assistance at the household level in the three months prior to the assessment, including an astonishing 95 percent among migrant households and 66 percent among Palestinian refugees, statistics which Rochdi described as “appalling.”

However, Rochdi said that since the launch of the ERP in August 2021 until June 10, $197 million has been received from donors, which she said had allowed them to assist more than 600,000 people with aid including cash assistance, medical services and clean water –– adding that an additional $163 million required per the revised ERP will provide life-saving humanitarian support to 1 million vulnerable Lebanese, Palestine refugees and migrants.

The humanitarian coordinator stressed that while the Lebanese government, even in its caretaker capacity, showed political will in addressing these “catastrophic” numbers, and that they signed the new ERP update, “we are not here to replace the responsibility of the government and we have made that clear since day one,” stressing the need for sustainable solutions and strategies to the myriad issues plaguing the country.

Rochdi also pointed out that while “Most of the time the rhetoric is that Lebanon is not getting support, I can assure you this is not true.” But at the same time, she warned: “We don’t want this to become the rule, the only answer and the framework.”

Rochdi also added that “It is very important to make sure that a clear message is conveyed by all of us that we are doing this because of our moral obligation and … our humanitarian imperative but there is absolutely no point in actually substituting the responsibility of the government.”

In response to a question by a journalist based on the often quoted World Bank line that Lebanon is experiencing one of the worst financial crises in modern history, who wondered whether Lebanon’s humanitarian crisis can also be called one of the worst in the world, Rochdi responded that Lebanon’s humanitarian crisis is “definitely not the worst in the world” as there are much more acute crises, adding that, “most importantly, this is the country where [the humanitarian crisis] can be very easily reversed,” without specifying how.

On Wednesday, Rochdi announced during meetings with the Lebanese government that the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund had allocated $16 million to scale up humanitarian response in Lebanon. The Lebanon Humanitarian Fund is a country-based pooled fund led by the Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon and managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which, since its inception in 2014, has received over $122 million from donors, which has funded 27 sectoral and multi-sectoral projects for 25 national and international non-governmental organizations to date.

Preliminary results from a recent AUB survey show that a majority of the 931 households surveyed — distributed across the sectors of agriculture, construction, education, food and beverage, health care, manufacturing and retail — reported a monthly income below LL5 million per month (approximately $170 at the current parallel market rate).

The survey also revealed that fewer than 20 percent of households with a member working in any of the sectors have any access to fresh dollars. It also addressed coping strategies, with majorities of respondents saying they have tried to survive the economic downturn through means as diverse as changing their diet, skipping meals, postponing doctors’ appointments, reducing use of hot water, reducing use of a vehicle, spending out of savings and withdrawing funds from their education.