09/22/2020, 12.45
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Food vouchers for 55,000 destitute families

Lebanon’s situation is increasingly like that of Sudan. Thanks to funding from some European countries and the United Nations, the government is setting up a food voucher programme. The number of people living below the poverty line and in extreme poverty is increasing. A funding plan to stop school dropout in the works. The “Help devastated Beirut” campaign continues.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon risks experiencing a situation of poverty "similar to that of Sudan". As the number of poor Lebanese rises, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Tourism has promoted a campaign aimed at providing food vouchers.

According to Minister Ramzi Musharrafieh, at least 55,000 of the country’s poorest families will benefit from the plan. The initiative is funded by some European countries and the United Nations.

Food vouchers were introduced in 2011 as the country faces an increasingly critical situation, but their use has greatly expanded recently to meet growing needs.

COVID-19 tipped the balance, pushing 55 per cent of the population below the poverty line at a time of ongoing emergency that has also triggered, among other things, a rise in suicides.

The subsidies are still inadequate given the growing needs, especially considering that 250,000 households live in conditions of extreme poverty, Assem Abi Ali, director of the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP), told L'Orient-Le Jour.

Charged by the government with distributing the food vouchers, he is very conscious of the state of crisis. "According to the World Bank, 45 per cent of the Lebanese population lived below the poverty line in March 2020, 22 per cent in conditions of extreme poverty,” he said.

In recent months, the situation has worsened so much that "60 per cent of the population is now living in conditions of poverty, 25 per cent in extreme poverty with less than a dollar a day.” That represents, “according to our calculation, at least 250,000 families in extreme poverty.”

To qualify for benefits, families must apply to the Ministry and get the go-ahead after an interview with social services. From an initial group of 10,000 families, the number rose to 15,000, but the goal, for Assem Abi Ali, is to help up to 55,000 families in need.

Most of the beneficiaries live in the north of the country and in the Beqaa. “The aid obtained will allow us to help 55,000 households by February 2022. But the needs will increase as time goes by".

Discussions have been underway over the past few months with the World Bank to get a loan that could expand the scope of the aid, so that students from poor families could be included to prevent school dropout, the LCRP director explained.

About “40 per cent of young people between 12 and 15 years leave [school] because of the situation. Our plan would provide US a month. The talks have been slowed down by the resignation of the Diab government, but they must be resumed as soon as possible.”

In order to help the people of Beirut and Lebanon, as well as Caritas Lebanon, AsiaNews is launching a campaign to ‘Help devastated Beirut’. Those who want to contribute can make a donation to:

PIME Foundation:

- International Bank Account Number (IBAN): IT78C0306909606100000169898

- Bank Identifier Code (BIC): BCITITMM

- Reason for transfer: AN04 – HELP DEVASTATED BEIRUT

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