Hariri, U.N. Representatives Launch Lebanon Refugee Crisis Response Plan

Prime Minister Saad Hariri, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini formally launched Thursday the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2017-2020 at the Grand Serail.

As the conflict in Syria approaches its seventh year, the Lebanese government and its national and international partners appealed Thursday for USD 2.8 billion to provide critical humanitarian assistance and protection as well as invest in Lebanon’s public infrastructure, services and local economy in 2017.

The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan brings together more than 104 partners to assist 2.8 million highly vulnerable people living in Lebanon. It aims to provide protection and immediate assistance to 1.9 million Syrian refugees, vulnerable Lebanese and Palestine refugees and deliver basic services to 2.2 million people as well as to invest in Lebanese infrastructure, economy and public institutions.

“Despite the concerted efforts of the government, the international community and civil society to mitigate the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon and the large-scale response underway, the needs of the affected populations, both displaced and host communities, are outpacing the Government of Lebanon’s and its partners’ ability to provide adequate services. As a result, coping strategies are being tested,” the U.N. said in a statement.

Lazzarini said “as the crisis enters its seventh year, it is clear that Lebanon needs not only to be supported to manage the impact of the crisis but also to remain an anchor for stability and driver for reconstruction in the region.”

“More attention is needed to transform the crisis into opportunity and to address pre-existing development constraints Lebanon has been struggling with for the last decade. It means enabling universal access to education for both Lebanese and Syrian refugees. It also means investments to stimulate economic growth and opportunities to create jobs. What is foremost needed is a national development plan,” Lazzarini added.

“Continued international solidarity and responsibility-sharing is therefore required, looking beyond humanitarian funding with a view to strengthening Lebanon’s development and resilience,” he went on to say.

Hariri called on the international community to help Lebanon, warning that “the dangers of failing to do so will not only be felt by us but by the world at large.”

“Certainly, what was referred to as an ’emergency’ six years ago has now become one of the most acute crises that Lebanon has ever faced, and has had severe repercussions on the political, economic, social and security fronts,” Hariri said in a speech in English.

Faced with the severe political, economic and social impact of the crisis, the Lebanese government “has put this issue on the top of its priorities, and has taken the decision to address it through a unified policy, and a comprehensive, well-prioritized strategy,” Hariri added.

He said in the coming three years, Lebanon needs “no less than 8 to 10 billion dollars’ worth of new investments in infrastructure, to upgrade already existing infrastructure, invest in new projects and compensate for the deterioration that took place due to the presence of 1.5 million Syrians.”

“Lebanon’s security and stability is my priority. It is in the interest of both Lebanon and the international community to safeguard and reinforce this stability as an anchor for prosperity and development, and a driver for reconstruction in the region. Lebanon cannot continue to shoulder the burden of this crisis without adequate and substantial international support to its institutions and infrastructure,” Hariri added.

He warned: “The dangers of failing to do so will not only be felt by us, but by the world at large.

Lebanon’s infrastructure is stretched to its limits due to a 28% increase in its population in less than five years.

According to the U.N. statement, municipal spending on waste disposal has increased by 40 percent since the start of the crisis and vulnerabilities among both host communities and refugee populations have worsened over the past years with the vast majority struggling to meet their basic needs such as food, rent and healthcare.

More than half of the Syrian refugees, ten percent of the Lebanese and six percent of Palestine Refugees from Syria live on less than US$ 2.5 a day, the statement said.

Over 250,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children are out of school.

In addition to the pressures on an already fragile infrastructure and the strain on public services, the conflict raging in Syria has had “severe economic repercussions on Lebanon that have resulted in a loss of trade revenues, tourism and decline in investment,” the statement added.

In 2016, crisis response partners received US$ 1.2 billion against the joint appeal which has helped “avoid a sharp deterioration in humanitarian conditions and the country’s infrastructure,” the statement said.

Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi stressed Wednesday that “the international community has no intention at all to naturalize Syrian refugees in Lebanon.”

Lebanon is home to more than one million registered Syrian refugees — equal to about a quarter of the country’s 4.5 million people. It’s the highest refugee population in the world per capita.

Lebanon says that another half a million Syrians live in the country as well, unregistered, and officials say their presence has generated a severe burden that Lebanon can no longer handle alone.

More than two-thirds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty, according to a United Nations study.