“At the social level, the explosion is going to happen,” says Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. “It’s inevitable. Poverty is escalating and the needs are growing.” According to the latest statistics released by Lebanon’s Ministry of Social Affairs, 8 percent of the population lives below the low poverty line ($2.80 a day) and 28 percent live below the high poverty line ($4 a day). An August 2014 study showed another 170,000 Lebanese citizens sank below the low poverty line. In recent years, the government started a program to help the most vulnerable Lebanese with food coupons, health assistance and support for children’s education.
“There are entire new generations that are being raised in poverty,” says Dr. Jean Mrad, director of the National Poverty Targeting Program. Dr. Mrad concedes the $28 million yearly budget of the program is far from sufficient; an additional $55 million is needed to support 350,000 Lebanese over the next three years. The roots of poverty in Lebanon long predate the start of the Syrian conflict. Years of political instability and longstanding economic problems have decimated the middle class in the country. The conflict in neighboring Syria has only exacerbated existing problems. While the entire country is affected by the crisis, rural areas in the north and in the Bekaa Valley have been especially impacted; their economies
once depended on trade with Syria. Since the Lebanese government closed the borders with Syria, trade ceased and incomes plummeted. Despite this bleak picture, the United Nations Development Program recently noted the presence of refugees has had some positive effect on the economy. Some businesses are benefiting from the availability of cheap Syrian labor, and landlords are gaining income from tenants. The beneficiaries, however, are a few better-off Lebanese in areas where refugees are concentrated. For the rest, it is a very different story.
t the dispensary in Naba’a, which is run by a consortium of women religious, the
Sister Johanna Ghyoot looks over the Dbayeh refugee camp, on the outskirts of Beirut.
The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)