LEBANON HIT BY A DROP IN FUNDING FOR HUMANITARIAN PROJECTS
Première Urgence Internationale has had a presence in Lebanon since 1996. Teams have worked hard to improve the situation for host populations and refugees in a country crippled by economic and security difficulties. While funding for humanitarian projects is declining, Antoine Sagot-Priez, Lebanon mission leader for Première Urgence Internationale, emphasises that it is essential to continue working on a daily basis to support vulnerable people.
IS THERE STILL AN URGENT NEED FOR WORK IN LEBANON?
Yes, there are still overwhelming humanitarian needs in the country. Since 2011 and the start of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon has faced an unprecedented crisis. Indeed, Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland have been coming to this neighbouring country. In Lebanon, 1 inhabitant in every 5 is now Syrian. And these refugees are living in very precarious conditions. They also constitute a burden for the country, which was already familiar with significant instability and great poverty. The Lebanese community is making considerable efforts to welcome the Syrians.
To add to these difficulties, there has been a drop in humanitarian funding allocated by donors to humanitarian projects for refugees as well as for host populations. This is because the crisis has been dragging on for 6 years. This reduction in funding for emergency humanitarian projects is to be expected. But at the same time, it is vital for maintaining decent living conditions for people who have been displaced for several years.
We will be forced to reduce the number of people who benefit from our projects. Funding for humanitarian projects allows us to help the most vulnerable people. However, the decrease in this funding will affect a large section of the population, who will no longer receive assistance, as how we measure vulnerability will need to be reviewed. Some inhabitants will find themselves just outside these new criteria. So, we will need to reconsider what vulnerability means in such an environment. It is an existential question for humanitarian workers.
WILL THE DECREASE IN FUNDING FOR HUMANITARIAN PROJECTS CHANGE OUR WORK IN THE COUNTRY?
Indeed, we will have to work within the constraints of less funding for humanitarian projects. We are not yet sure exactly of the impact this will have. We are focusing our work more and more on access to basic services, such as health care, for the host population and for refugees. The country’s health system is extremely expensive. So it excludes the most deprived inhabitants. For example, some women who have complications following childbirth cannot at present receive adequate care.
We can see an impoverishment in the populations affected by the crisis. To stop this downward spiral, we are distributing funds to people in need. So that they can access quality services, according to their needs.
We also hope to be able to carry on our work in Akkar, one of the poorest areas of the country. For example at the moment, we are rebuilding water infrastructures in a village in this region where Syrians and Lebanese people live side by side.
SO IS FUNDING OF HUMANITARIAN PROJECTS DESPERATELY NEEDED AT THE MOMENT, DESPITE THE RECENT TALK OF SOME SYRIAN REFUGEES RETURNING TO THEIR COUNTRY?
Some countries’ leaders have spoken at the United Nations of the urgency to return Syrian refugees to their homeland. But we have to remember that most Syrians dream of returning home and that they will do so if they consider it appropriate and possible. Returning is not a duty, but a right. This subject sparks many debates, but that it is the position at the moment.
And we must not forget other problems such as the state of the Palestine camps in the country, which are over-populated. Our presence is therefore more than just desirable in Lebanon. In view of the forthcoming funding of humanitarian projects, we hope to be able to continue bringing assistance to the people.