BEIRUT – One year after the deadly blasts that rocked Beirut and following months of economic meltdown that have plunged millions of people across Lebanon into poverty, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is now supporting one in six people in the country, more than at any time in its history.

With half of Lebanese people and almost the entire Syrian refugee population classified as living in deep poverty, the U.N. World Food Programme continues to scale up its assistance to reach 1.4 million people in the country with food and cash support.

“The Beirut Port Explosion is not just a memory of something that happened a year ago. It is a reality that still haunts the people of Lebanon in every aspect of their lives,” says Abdallah Alwardat, the U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Lebanon. “During the last year, I have met families who before the blast lived comfortably and are now worrying about basic necessities such as food, rent and medicine.”

The economic and political crises in Lebanon have seen families lose their homes and jobs with the result that many are now unable to buy enough food for themselves. In the year since the explosions in Beirut Port, the Lebanese currency has plunged to a fifteenth of its former value and inflation has put food out of reach for much of the population.

The price of the U.N. World Food Programme food basket – a collection of staple food items that include oil and lentils– has increased five-fold since the beginning of the crisis in October 2019. Over 90 percent of the Syrian refugees and close to half of the Lebanese people are currently hungry.

In the immediate aftermath of the Beirut Blast last year, the U.N. World Food Programme gave out food parcels to 11,000 people and supported communal kitchens through local partners and NGOs. The U.N. World Food Programme also imported 27,557,783 pounds of wheat flour into Lebanon to boost food security in the country. In the following weeks, 90,000 people were given aid in the form of cash.

The U.N. World Food Programme also provided support to over 200 businesses reeling from the devastating impact of the Beirut blast, including 53 women-owned firms. They received resources needed to cover salaries of workers, rehabilitate damages, make repairs, buy new equipment and restock with products and raw materials.

Established after the Beirut Port Explosion, the U.N. World Food Programme Lebanon’s Food System Grant Facility (FSGF) is a new and innovative tool for supporting crises-affected micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) across the Lebanese food system. These businesses play a key role in supporting food security in Lebanon. They include grocery shops, butcheries, bakeries, fruit and vegetable shops, cafes, home-based catering services and restaurants.

Photos available for download here.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media and @WFPLebanon

BEIRUT – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started scaling up its support to a crucial national social support scheme in Lebanon to assist families struggling to make ends meet amid a severe economic downturn, skyrocketing inflation and a collapsing Lebanese pound.

The U.N. World Food Programme will support an additional 195,000 people, aiming to reach a total of 300,000 people per month through the National Poverty Targeting Programme (NPTP) of the Ministry of Social Affairs which is developing the national social protection framework and strategy. To address inflation and increased food prices in Lebanon, the U.N. World Food Programme will provide each family with a cash top-up of 200,000 LBP that can be used in shops or at cash machines (ATMs).

“It gets harder by the day for Lebanese people to put food on the table, so this assistance comes just in time,” says U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Lebanon Abdallah Alwardat. “Meanwhile, we are monitoring the overall conditions of the families receiving our assistance to make sure they can feed themselves properly and avoid the anguish of not knowing where their next meal is coming from.”

Since 2014, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs, the U.N. World Food Programme has been the backbone of sustaining the food assistance component of the National Poverty Targeting Programme, reaching more than 105,000 people every month through e-cards which can be used to buy food. This support provides a lifeline for Lebanese families living meal to meal.

The U.N. World Food Programme repeatedly increased monthly cash assistance transfers throughout 2020 to keep up with rising prices: from LBP 40,500 in 2019 to 100,000 LBP for each member of a family that holds the NPTP e-card.

“We stand ready to help the people of Lebanon navigate these challenging times,” says EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf. “We are committed to strengthening Lebanese social protection systems, including reforming the National Poverty Targeting Programme. We are following this closely with the United Nations and World Bank Group, as part of our joint effort on reform, recovery and reconstruction following the Beirut blast.”

The U.N. World Food Programme is implementing the scale-up thanks to generous contributions from the European Union, Germany, Canada, Norway, Italy and France. The U.N. World Food Programme aims to reach 750,000 Lebanese across the country through various interventions.

“We support a whole-of-Lebanon approach and leave no-one-behind approach, because we include everyone in this project,” says Ambassador of Germany in Lebanon Andreas Kindl.

In addition to direct food assistance to the poorest Lebanese families, the U.N. World Food Programme is also strengthening the capacity and sustainability of the Government of Lebanon’s National poverty targeting programme. As well as training the Ministry of Social Affairs’ social workers, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing a robust payment delivery platform, monitoring results, building digital systems and providing technical support.

“The compounded crises facing Lebanon nowadays have led to a dramatic increase in poverty rates and exacerbated vulnerabilities among the residents of Lebanon,” says Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Ramzi Moucharafieh. “The Ministry of Social Affairs, in collaboration with the U.N. World Food Programme and through the generous support of donor community, is trying to guarantee food security and achieve a comprehensive social protection strategy that is a basic right for everyone, to allow them to live in dignity.”

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media and @WFPLebanon

Beirut, LEBANON – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today published the key findings of the 2020 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR).

The economic downturn, steep inflation, COVID-19 and finally the Beirut blast have pushed vulnerable communities in Lebanon – including Syrian refugees – to the brink, with thousands of families sinking further into poverty and vulnerability.

One of the most concerning indicators of the impact of the compounded crises Syrian refugees have been facing in Lebanon is the sharp increase in the proportion of households living under the extreme poverty line, reaching a staggering 89 per cent in 2020, up from 55 per cent only a year before. They now live on around $200 per person per month – this is less than half the minimum wage in Lebanon.The economic downturn, steep inflation, COVID-19 and finally the Beirut blast have pushed vulnerable communities in Lebanon – including Syrian refugees – to the brink, with thousands of families sinking further into poverty and vulnerability.

Mireille Girard, UNHCR Representative in Lebanon, said: “The consecutive crises have affected all communities in Lebanon – Lebanese, refugees, migrants, and others – and the most vulnerable are the hardest hit. The situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has been deteriorating for years, but the findings of this year’s survey are a dramatic indication of how difficult it has become for them to make it through another day.” She added: “The key findings are released at a time when Syrian refugees are facing their hardest winter yet in Lebanon, braving the weather elements with very little to stay warm and safe.”

Refugees Are Accumulating More Debt Than Ever Before

The findings of the survey have indicated that the average amount of debt accumulated by households has increased by 18 per cent with an average debt of more than $1200 per family. The main reason for incurring debt was buying food (93 per cent), followed by rent and medicine at 48 per cent and 34 per cent respectively. Similar to the previous year, 9 out 10 households continue to be in debt, indicating that Syrian refugee households continue to lack enough resources to cover their basic needs.

Half of the Syrian Refugee Population Is Now Food Insecure

Food prices have almost tripled in Lebanon since October 2019 increasing by about 174 per cent. At the same time, income opportunities have drastically shrunk due to the sharp economic slowdown the country has seen over the past twelve months.

Half of Syrian refugee families surveyed were found to be suffering from food insecurity, compared to 28 per cent at the same time in 2019.

Households with inadequate diets have doubled compared to the previous year (25 per cent in 2019 to 49 per cent in 2020), while the number of those resorting to damaging food coping mechanisms such as reducing the number of meals per day or reducing food portions is also on the rise.

Female-headed households are slightly more food insecure than male-headed households, and a far higher proportion of female-headed households (68 per cent) than male-headed households (13 per cent) are using coping strategies categorized as “crisis level” or “emergency level”. Crisis coping strategies include marriage of children under the age of 18, selling productive assets, withdrawing children from school, and reducing expenditure on education and health. Emergency coping strategies include begging, accepting high-risk jobs or sending children to work.

“Refugees are the most vulnerable people in any society and they are no different in Lebanon where the entire population is suffering from multiple crises that are even affecting the country’s middle class,” says Abdallah Al Wardat, U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Lebanon. “Thanks to generous support from donors, the U.N. World Food Programme continues to provide assistance to more than 800,000 refugees every month.”

Limited Access to Remote Learning, Child Labor on the Rise  

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, public schools in Lebanon were all closed starting March 2020, and remote learning was introduced across the country. Sixty-five per cent of school-aged children (ages 6-17) enrolled in schools were reported to only have attended school in person, before the closure in March 2020. The remaining 35 per cent had some access to remote/distance learning, of whom one third were not able to follow such lessons, mostly due to lack of or insufficient internet.

The percentage of children aged between 5 and 17 years old who are engaged in child labour almost doubled, up from 2.6 per cent in 2019 to 4.4 per cent in 2020.  Boys are more involved in child labour (6.9 per cent) than girls (1.6 per cent)

“The situation of children is becoming more and more delicate following the unprecedented crises Lebanon faced this year,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “We need to ensure that the most vulnerable children and young people are kept healthy, safe, and learning. They should be kept away from negative coping mechanisms such as child labour.”

Access to Civil Documentation Remains a Challenge

Similar to 2019, close to 70 per cent of Syrian refugees continue to lack legal residency. This affects all aspects of refugees’ lives, not only in terms of restricting movement due to increased risk of arrest and detention, but also in posing additional challenges in securing housing and accessing livelihoods.

While improvements in birth registration were noted in 2019, this did not carry over to 2020. In 2020, only 28 per cent of births that had occurred in Lebanon were registered with the Foreigners’ Registry, compared to 30 per cent in 2019 and 21 per cent in 2018. However, almost all births (98 per cent) have the minimum documentation (doctor or midwife certificate).

Tensions Between Host and Refugee Communities Have Decreased

Similar to previous years, competition for jobs was cited by a number of families (40 per cent) as one of the main drivers for tensions between refugee and host communities, however, this is a stark decrease from 2019 (51 per cent). Families citing competition for resources also decreased from 20 per cent in 2019, to only 8 per cent in 2020.

About VASyR

The Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR) was conducted jointly by UNHCR, the U.N. World Food Programme, and UNICEF. VASyR 2020 is the eighth version of the annual survey.

The situation in Lebanon has affected all populations living in the country – Lebanese, refugees, migrants and others – with the most vulnerable communities being hit the hardest. While VASyR specifically looks at the Syrian refugee population, UNHCR, the U.N. World Food Programme and UNICEF are all working closely with the Lebanese authorities and other organizations, including the World Bank, to analyze the impact of the situation on vulnerable Lebanese, and to provide appropriate assistance.

Between August and September 2020, VASyR survey teams visited a nationally representative sample of 4,563 Syrian refugee households, covering all districts across Lebanon.

The survey is the cornerstone of the Lebanon Crisis Response plan (LCRP) and programming for many (I)NGOs, UN and development actors.

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR works closely with the Government of Lebanon and numerous other national and international partners in providing protection and assistance to refugees and stateless persons, as well as Lebanese communities.

The U.N. World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. In Lebanon, the U.N. World Food Programme in close collaboration with its partners is the largest provider of direct food and non-food assistance to refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities.

UNICEF works in the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

For more information, contact:

Reem Nada, +2010 6663 452, Reem.Nada@wfp.org
Edmond Khoury, +961 81 313 091, Edmond.Khoury@wfp.org

BEIRUT – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) started this week, in close partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), distributing the first round of food assistance for vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee schoolchildren and their families across Lebanon.

The food parcels replace traditional in-school meals children would otherwise be receiving as part of the U.N. World Food Programme’s nation-wide program and as schools remain closed.

Due to the deterioration of the economic situation in Lebanon, the U.N. World Food Programme expanded its school feeding program for the 2020-2021 academic year to reach 50,000 students in 81 schools – an increase by about 20,000 children compared to the last academic year. Distributions will include all students benefiting from the U.N. World Food Programme’s school feeding program, even if their families were receiving other forms of assistance through the U.N. World Food Programme.

“In these difficult times the country is going through, the most vulnerable are the first to suffer. When families have less money for food and other necessities they tend to think of other alternatives that could include sending children to work,” said Country Director and Representative of the U.N. World Food Programme in Lebanon, Abdallah Al-Wardat.

“By adapting our school feeding to COVID-19 restrictions, we are ensuring that children continue to get an education even remotely, that they are getting enough food and at the same time we are freeing up a family’s limited income so they can afford rent, medicine and other necessities.”

Families were invited to send one representative to collect the parcels in order to avoid crowding and ensure all COVID-19 safety measures are respected. The food parcel covers 40 percent of the daily food needs of a family of five for one month. It includes rice, pasta, grains, lentils, beans, sunflower oil, sugar and salt. Carrying out the distributions are the U.N. World Food Programme’s cooperating partners, the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and Development, Culture, Leadership (DCL) with full implementation of the necessary COVID-19 precautionary and safety measures.

“Lebanon’s multiple crises have affected thousands of families’ access to nutritious food,” said Director of Guidance and Counselling at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education Hilda Khoury. “This partnership with the U.N. World Food Programme is protecting children and helping families cope with the impact of the crises by sending food to their homes as learning modalities continue to change and adapt.”

This distribution was funded by the governments of Italy, Canada and Ireland and aims to help the most vulnerable school children and their families meet their food needs while preserving the linkages between families and schools to minimize dropouts once schools reopen. During this critical period, in addition to providing a shock-responsive safety net through distribution of family food parcels, the U.N. World Food Programme has rehabilitated six school kitchens to provide fresh meals to 5,000 children attending public schools once schools resume.

In June and July this year and following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures, the U.N. World Food Programme distributed food parcels to 13,000 of the most vulnerable school children who benefit of our school feeding program and their families.

U.N. World Food Programme Lebanon has been distributing locally produced snacks to vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian children attending public schools operating on a double-shift system since 2016.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. | Follow us on Twitter @WPFUSA and @WFPLebanon

For more information, contact:

  • Reem Nada, WFP/Beirut, Mob. +2010 6663 4522, reem.nada@wfp.org
  • Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Mob. +2010 6663 4352, abeer.etefa@wfp.org

BEIRUT – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Lebanon is stepping up its response to the explosion that ripped through the capital in August by providing cash assistance for up to 50,000 people (10,000 families), to help them meet basic needs such as food and healthcare.

As of mid-September, vulnerable families started to receive a monthly transfer of 1,680,000 LBP (about $1,107) under an operation that is expected to last for six months. People most in need were identified based on assessments conducted by the U.N. World Food Programme and its partners in affected neighborhoods. The U.N. World Food Programme will continue to accept applications for assistance through a self-registration website launched earlier in September. We are carrying out this assistance in close collaboration with the Lebanese Red Cross and with operational support from the Lebanese non-governmental organization SHEILD.

“The blast came as Lebanon was dealing with two other severe shocks: the ongoing economic crisis and the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown measures. Families have been struggling to meet their basic needs even prior to the explosion,” said U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Lebanon Abdallah Alwardat. “The U.N. World Food Programme has been on the ground since the days following the blast assisting those most in need. This assistance comes as a continuation of our response after bringing in wheat flour and providing food parcels and hot meals to vulnerable individuals and families.”

Prior to this operation, the U.N. World Food Programme distributed over 2,200 family food parcels reaching 7,600 people in the Karantina, Bourj Hammoud, Gemmayze, Geitawi, and Khandaa El Ghamee neighborhoods of Beirut. Local partners and NGOs also received U.N. World Food Programme food parcels to support kitchens providing more than 3,000 meals per day to affected families and volunteers cleaning up the neighborhoods.

In order to help stabilize the flour supply and the price of bread, the U.N. World Food Programme also brought into Lebanon 12,500 metric tons of wheat flour. Following an agreement with the Ministry of Economy and Trade, bakeries started to increase the weight of the bag of bread from 900g to 1,000g, allowing families to receive two extra loaves in the staple bag of pita bread for the same price for the next 60 days.

The U.N. World Food Programme encourages those impacted by the explosion and economic crisis to register for assistance using this website: https://reg.scope.wfp.org/lb/

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The U.N. World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA @wfp_media and @WFPLebanon

For more information, contact:

Malak Jaafar, WFP/ Lebanon, Mob. +961 76 320 761
Abeer Etefa WFP/ Cairo, Mob. +20 106 6663 4352
Reem Nada, WFP/ Cairo, Mob. +20 106 6663 4522

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