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Lebanon facing humanitarian crisis as UN providing less than ‘minimum survival level’ of aid

Lebanon faces one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with nearly four million people in need of food and other assistance, but less than half of them are getting that aid because of a lack of funding, a United Nations official said Thursday.

Agency says 4 million people need aid, but less than half are getting it due to lack of funds

Women and children sit outside a white tent on mats placed on top of stones

Lebanon faces one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with nearly four million people in need of food and other assistance, but less than half of them are getting that aid because of a lack of funding, a United Nations official said Thursday.

Imran Riza, the UN humanitarian chief for Lebanon, said 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.

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.

Three children walk in front of white tents against a blue sky

'Everything is on a negative track'

Riza said 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 to the civil war in Syria.

The UN 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 UN 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 UN received more or less 40 per cent 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."

"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.

A dark haired man in a suit and glasses speaks to the camera

Lebanon hosts most displaced persons per capita

According to the UN 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 kilometre in the world."

"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 UN is trying to do to help all those on the basis of need — "not of status or a population."

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