Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
Lebanon is facing the impacts of economic and financial collapse, COVID-19, the Beirut Port explosions and the Syrian crisis. In addition, political deadlock fuels popular protests and hampers meaningful reform and recovery efforts. In this context, the situation of ordinary people in Lebanon is worsening day by day. Secondary data analysis indicates increasing humanitarian needs within Lebanese and migrant communities. In addition, the preliminary findings of the 2021 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon reveal a dire situation. Half of 879,598 Syrians registered as refugees with UNHCR are considered food insecure and about two thirds have to reduce the number of meals consumed per day.
Since October 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 per cent of its value, leading to a year-on-year inflation of 120 per cent between May 2020 and May 2021. Assessments indicate that unemployment among migrants was up to 50 per cent, with significant job losses in the final quarter of 2020. The sharp devaluation in the Lebanese pound has eroded living standards and wiped-out life savings, as residents grapple with triple-digit inflation rates for 15 consecutive months. Food and non-alcoholic beverages, which account for the bulk of poor households’ expenditures, witnessed a staggering 253 per cent annual average inflation rate in 2020.
Amid growing scarcity, an increasing number of families cannot afford increasingly limited basic goods and services including food, health, education, electricity, water and hygiene items. The minimum wage in Lebanon is equivalent to a mere US$35/month, while the population is bearing the brunt of the removal of subsidies on crucial imports. The price of 20 litres of gasoline and a tank of cooking gas now represents respectively almost half and more than a third of the monthly minimum wage. This has pushed the population into poverty, with an estimated 35% now below the extreme poverty line.
Electricity outages due to the fuel shortage are jeopardizing the availability of health care and drinking water for almost everyone in Lebanon. Many hospitals have been forced to reduce their operations to the bare minimum. The public water and wastewater treatment systems, which rely heavily on fuel, have also been drastically cut across the country, leaving millions of people without access to water in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The situation has considerably increased the number of violent inter and intra community incidents linked to competition over goods and services. In addition, an increase in irregular migration is already reported with frequent incidents observed in 2020 and 2021.
Projected situation in 2022 and beyond
The current downward spiral of socioeconomic conditions cannot be assessed in isolation of the evolving political developments and existing sectarian divides within the Lebanese society. Delays in forming the Government have put the country’s priorities in jeopardy, from IMF negotiations to electricity sector reform, to elections being held on time. Until the elections, due in March 2022, a multiple exchange rate system and continued deterioration of the socioeconomic situation is likely to result in further impoverishment and acute supply shocks across basic services.
Unfortunately, to date, Government-led emergency measures required to alleviate the suffering of millions of residents are yet to be put in place. The economic outlook is bleak for 2022, as IMF technical talks are at their infancy and formal negotiations on a multi-year IMF support programme are expected to take several more months in a best-case scenario. The pre-electoral period is also likely to fuel continued popular unrest and further increase the politicization of the reform and aid agenda.
In 2022, increased competition over employment and intracommunal tensions within Lebanese communities are likely to worsen in a context of persistent shortages of basic essential goods and services. Tensions between host communities and refugees are also likely to increase. Overall, it is anticipated that in 2022 the increasing tensions and sporadic violence will further reduce the operational space for humanitarian actors, who already face an increasing number of access challenges. Such trends will ultimately further increase the number of people in need of acute humanitarian assistance.
Response priorities in 2022
The Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is envisaged as a time-bound exceptional response to the current situation, pending the implementation of Government-led sustainable solutions to the crisis, including a full-fledged comprehensive and inclusive Government-led social protection strategy. The plan aims at linking with and preparing the transition towards such solutions to address the root causes of the crisis. The ERP is strictly humanitarian in nature and activities are implemented in full compliance with the HCT-endorsed Joint Operating Principles. It complements other humanitarian activities implemented in UNRWA programs and the UNHCR/UNDP-led Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. As such the ERP PIN and number of beneficiaries targeted have been calculated by taking those other plans into consideration.
The strategic objectives of the ERP are threefold, namely to:
Provide essential short-term support to most vulnerable people affected by the economic crisis for them to meet their critical needs in terms of health care, food, nutrition, education and water.
Support the response capacity of the Lebanese health system in coping with the COVID-19 emergency.
Enhance timely, unhindered and equitable access to protection assistance for migrants.
The intervention sectors included in the ERP are health, food security, nutrition, WASH, education, child protection and gender-based violence, logistics and a chapter focusing on migrants’ specific protection needs. The activities mostly comprise direct support to beneficiaries, this includes distribution of food and cash assistance for basic needs, including access to basic services including, health, water electricity.
In line with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s commitments on accountability to affected populations (AAP) and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, the Humanitarian Country Team is collectively accountable to people with humanitarian needs in Lebanon. The humanitarian community will look to enhance a collective AAP approach in implementing the ERP, building on available mechanisms and tools and ensuring synergies with current platforms. Collective AAP mechanisms will support both a people-centred and a community-centred approach to a) ensure equitable and meaningful access to available information and services, b) leverage the participation of affected people, including marginalized groups and hard-to-reach communities, and c) promote two-way communication between humanitarian partners and the affected communities, using their preferred languages and assistance modalities.
The ERP aims to ensure that the specific and diverse needs, capacities and priorities of women, girls, men, boys and gender non-conforming individuals are identified and responded to. Integrating gender equality in the ERP also reinforces a human rights-based approach, which improves programming. Attention to gender equality will be prioritized in all aspects of the ERP, including needs assessments, strategic planning, coordination, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Sex-, age-, and disability-disaggregated data will be collected and analysed, to the extent possible, across sectors and used to improve access and impact to diverse marginalized groups. Humanitarian coordination, technical assistance, information management and advocacy efforts related to gender equality will be supported by Lebanon’s Gender Working Group and the LGBTIQ+ Task Force (sub-working group), which oversees gender-related coordination across the humanitarian-development and peace interventions.
Multipurpose cash assistance (MPCA) is critical in assisting households affected by multiple vulnerabilities requiring a holistic response. Assistance will be distributed based on clear targeting and eligibility criteria by NGOs and UN agencies working collaboratively across sectors, drawing upon lessons from the recent response following the August 2020 Beirut Port explosions, where cash assistance, particularly MPCA, enabled a timely response to urgent needs. Under the framework of the 2021-2022 ERP, partners will provide about US$140 million in direct cash assistance, which is approximately a third of the ERP’s overall funding requirement. Of this amount, $27.25 million (20 per cent) is planned to be distributed in the form of MPCA, complementing other assistance including sector-specific cash and voucher assistance.
- The current analysis for the ERP (August 2021-July 2022), has been based largely on secondary data. Under the leadership of the HCT, OCHA is currently partnering with REACH to conduct a Multi-Sector Needs Assessment, with results expected by the end of 2021 to be used to update the ERP in early 2022.