At the end of a visit to Lebanon, EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, said that his visit came at an opportune moment, seeing as Lebanon is going through “important political changes with a new president, a government fully operational and parliamentary elections that should take place this year.”
During a press conference held at the Delegation of the European Union, the Commissioner stressed that the EU “stands for Lebanon and its people with continued support for the democratic process and socio-economic development,” an EU Delegation statement said.
He also said that his meetings with Lebanese officials addressed the delivery of the commitments mutually agreed at the London Conference in 2016 and under the EU-Lebanon Partnership Priorities signed late last year.
The Commissioner commended the Lebanese for the efforts undertaken in hosting Syrian refugees, noting that since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the EU has allocated more than €1.1 billion euros in assistance to Lebanon to cope with the crisis. He announced a new package of €62 million euros for the health sector in Lebanon to guarantee sound access to health services for the Lebanese communities and Syrian refugees.
During the day, Commissioner Hahn visited the solid waste sorting facility in Bar Elias that is constructed under a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the Economic and Social Fund for Development. The aim of the project is to assist municipal services to manage the large amount of daily waste in the three communities of Bar Elias, El Marj and Qab Elias.
These communities suffer from improper management of solid waste, and struggle to deal with the additional waste caused by the influx of Syrian refugees in the region. Commissioner Hahn said that “this facility is an excellent example of an investment that goes beyond the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis.”
The Commissioner then visited the informal settlement in Taanayel that hosts 45 Syrian refugee families. He discussed with the refugees their concerns and daily challenges as regards mainly protection, livelihood, and access to health and education services. He also met with Syrian volunteers who are promoting access to public schools for refugee children. UNHCR Representative Mireille Girard accompanied Commissioner Hahn during this visit. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the EU has been working with and supporting UNHCR in the response to the consequences of the crisis in Lebanon.
Commissioner Hahn also visited the Primary Health Care Center in Taanayel that is run under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Health.
This center provides services to around 3200 patients per month, both Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens. It is one of more than 200 centers and public hospitals that have received EU funds for new equipment, free medications and vaccines for children.
The EU funding also covers training for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and health workers, as well as awareness raising sessions. This assistance is provided through UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO. In addition, the EU is supporting the Ministry of Public Health to reinforce and enlarge Primary Health Care Centers.