BEIRUT: Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour criticized the international community Tuesday over what he said were baseless pretexts for blocking direct funding to the government to address the refugee crisis.
“Continuing to block international support to the Lebanese government and the local Lebanese community under the pretext of past discouraging experiences is not valid,” he said during a news conference in Geneva.
“Several donors have had encouraging experiences with donations given to the Lebanese government that were spent transparently and usefully,” Abu Faour added, in comments carried by the National News Agency.
Another excuse Abu Faour said was preventing the international community from aiding Lebanon directly was the presence of some elements in the government that were opposed by some international players, referring to Hezbollah.
“The second pretext included the presence of certain components in the Lebanese government that angers some international parties, but these components are part of Lebanon’s social and political fabric and will be part of any future government given the reality we live in,” he added.
He also noted the decision by the international community to evade direct funding to Lebanon would result in it losing two of its main allies in the Syrian refugee crisis: the Lebanese government and the host communities.
“The international community’s response to Lebanon’s needs until now barely allows the government to survive, as it faces enormous challenges,” he said.
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, Abu Faour said additional schools and hospitals have not been built to cope with the rising demands of the refugees.
“This should stop,” he said, urging the international community to act quickly and increase aid to Lebanon, particularly to host communities.
He also asked other countries to open up their borders to Syrian refugees and share the burden of hosting them with Lebanon.
Officials in Lebanon have said that the number of refugees in Lebanon, registered and unregistered, has reached 1.3 million. Abu Faour said 65 percent of the refugees live in the country’s poorest areas and are distributed among 1,650 villages.
He also repeated statistics made available by the World Bank which indicated that the refugee crisis would cost the Lebanese economy some $7.5 billion, not to mention an increase in poverty and unemployment.
Abu Faour urged the international community to support Lebanon, as promised during meetings last week in New York in the presence of the Security Council’s five permanent members.