Lebanon News

Lebanon seeks $179 mln to cope with refugees

Syrian refugees stand in line to get their rations of heating gas in the Hermel region village of Fekha. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT: The government is calling for a staggering $179,276,320 to cope with the massive numbers of Syrians in the country in its newly launched response plan that is a belated attempt to reassert its control over aid efforts in a nearly two-year-old crisis.

According to a copy of the government’s donor appeal obtained by The Daily Star and to be released Wednesday, the government is requesting international aid for three ministries and the emergency Higher Relief Commission to bolster social, education and health services for refugees.

The financial funding request, which is to be distributed at an international donor’s meeting in Geneva, vastly outstrips the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees operating budget of around $100 million, which is only partially funded.

But the hefty request, which includes a call for almost $58 million for displaced Lebanese from Syria, is something the country can’t do without, the report says.

“With the escalation of violence, a massive influx of displaced is expected and that requires extensive resources. If these are not made available, then the government of Lebanon is forced to opt for a different approach in dealing with the displaced,” reads the report.

There are currently over 159,000 refugees in the country receiving aid, trough the U.N. Local charities estimate there are thousands more who have not sought assistance.

The government plan would reorganize refugee relief operations under an inter-ministerial committee headed by the prime minister. Four newly empowered government bodies as well as the large international aid community would receive tasks from the committee and be responsible for reporting back to it.

Details in the plan give an inside look into how the current government views a problem that has demanded its attention and used up its resources over the past year.

The overview of the plan shows a government willing to help refugees as long as international aid is forthcoming and attitudes about the eventual end of the projects were understood.

“Care should be observed during implementation of any [aid] scheme not to create dependency among displaced communities. It should also be made clear to all concerned that displaced families will be expected to return home after the restoration of peace in Syria,” the report says.

An emphasis was put on the toll that large refugee populations were taking on their Lebanese host communities. The brief urged donors to look at the taxed communities in context of the country’s experience with refugees.

“Avoiding conflict and maintaining social and political stability steps out as the main concern to the government,” the report says.

The new structure is the government’s attempt to correct what it sees as inequalities in aid distribution that is leaving many people at risk.

“Unfortunately, assistance remains unequal and fragmented in the absence of an overall framework for action,” the report reads. “A remarkable effort is done at the level of the U.N. agencies to elicit such a mechanism, yet it still lacks a governing role expected from the side of the government of Lebanon.”

To rectify that problem, roughly $28 million would be allocated for the Social Affairs Ministry, $18 million to the Education Ministry, $75 million to the Health Ministry and $58 million to the Higher Relief Committee.

Line item breakdowns of funds also give a broadscale view of the changing needs of the Syrian refugee population as it enters its 22 month of residence in Lebanon. The fact that 75 percent of refugees are women and children, and many others are elderly is clearly reflected in the projections.

Public hospitals are projected to deliver 3,445 newborns, offer 1,120 prostheses for amputees, conduct 86 open-heart operations and offer weekly dialysis to 100 people. In addition, the government is expecting to perform 28,000 other surgeries and offer 20,000 emergency services.

Budget allocations for the Education Ministry include money for school expansions, remedial classes for students unfamiliar with Lebanon’s school system and school fees, books and uniforms.

The Social Affairs Ministry is expected to provide child protection services, newborn care services and help for the elderly, as well as assist in procuring shelter.

The Higher Relief Committee is tasked with offering food, shelter and basic aid services to around 50,000 displaced Lebanese from Syria. Little information was given on who or where these Lebanese are; previous reports of displaced Lebanese from Syria found local estimates in the hundreds rather than thousands.

All of that aid comes in addition to the basic aid services that are being offered through U.N. agencies such as UNCHR and the World Food program, which the government report says will continue to operate in the country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 19, 2012, on page 4.




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