Lebanon News

Lebanon seeks $1B to cope with Syria crisis

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam (L) and one of Iraq's three Vice Presidents Iyad Allawi (R), attend the opening ceremony of the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, at Bayan palace in Kuwait City, on March 31,2015. AFP PHOTO / STR

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam requested $1 billion to help Lebanon cope with the Syrian refugee crisis at an international donors’ conference in Kuwait on Tuesday, as the U.S. pledged more than $118 million in aid.

The U.S. announced it will provide Lebanon with more than $118 million to assist with the refugee crisis, according to a statement released Tuesday by its embassy in Beirut.

The donation to Lebanon is the U.S.’s highest pledge to a refugee-hosting nation in the region, followed by donations to Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. It is superseded only by funding earmarked to help internally displaced persons in Syria.

The donation will be funneled through UN agencies working in Lebanon, allowing these organizations to deliver immediate cash assistance to pay for food, rent, education, healthcare, shelter, and basic relief items, including blankets, heaters, and hygiene kits, according to the embassy’s statement.

It added that the additional funding will also help support Lebanese host communities through improvements to municipal water and sanitation systems, support for local community centers and clinics, and upgraded school facilities.

Additional U.S. support to UNRWA in Lebanon will provide increased levels of aid, including cash, relief supplies, education, and medical care, targeting Palestinian refugees from Syria in camps and other communities.

Salam, who spoke at the Kuwait summit on Tuesday, said the influx of Syrian refugees has exceeded the capacity of Lebanon’s infrastructure. “Direct, one-time financial assistance would be the best solution,” he said.

“The anticipated solution must be sustainable, [and should] aim to address the deteriorating situation through financial aid distributed to Syrian refugees displaced [in Lebanon], as well as targeting humanitarian issues in host communities.”

“Only this path can ease the consequences [of the Syria crisis] on the people of Lebanon."

On behalf of the Lebanese government, Salam submitted to the Kuwait summit “a plan, amounting to over $1 billion” for development projects in number of areas, including water management, energy, health, education, agriculture, and transportation.

He said he welcomed any suggested amendments to the plan, slated for 2015-2016.

Salam pointed to the “more than 1.5 Syrian refugees [in the country], equal to one-third of Lebanon’s population,” and said the worst effect of the refugee crisis was “the ongoing instability in Lebanon, as militants have spread to several refugee [communities].”

Salam also expressed frustration at the increased rate of unemployment among Lebanese youth that he said had resulted from the crisis.

Kuwait opened the international donors' conference for Syria with a pledge of $500 million in humanitarian aid, as the United Nations issued its largest yet appeal, seeking $8.4 billion in commitments.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah made the pledge at the start of the third annual gathering. In his opening remarks, the emir called the Syrian conflict the "largest humanitarian crisis in recent history."

The civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed at least 220,000 people and displaced 11 million, according to the U.N. Of the displaced, nearly 4 million have been forced to flee to nearby countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, putting immense pressure on those countries’ resources and infrastructure.

As the crisis continues unabated, the U.N. says $2.9 billion in aid is needed in 2015 for Syrians still in the country, and $5.5 billion for those who have fled abroad.

 

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