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Lebanon: Coronavirus cash assistance postponed indefinitely

April 15, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Medical personnel treating patients suffering from coronavirus (COVID-19), in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 7 April 2020 [JOSEPH EID/AFP/ Getty Images]

Lebanon’s Ministry of Social Affairs announced on Monday an indefinite postponement of its cash assistance program aimed at helping the poorest families in society through lockdown measures imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the ministry said it will postpone a planned one-time cash distribution of approximately 400,000 Lebanese Lira ($140) per family.

Families in need of assistance were told to contact municipalities and local authorities to register to receive the cash hand-out.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, the cash hand-outs were set to reach 187,500 families.

However, the aid has been delayed because of “mistakes” in these lists, which were presented by the local authorities to the Lebanese Army.

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Military personnel are now tasked with checking and revising the lists.

“Due to several mistakes in the presented lists, the ministry decided to postpone the distribution of this aid until the army has concluded its inspection,” the statement said.

Minister for Social Affairs Ramzi Moucharafieh added that between 70 and 75 per cent of people in Lebanon, primarily private sector and informal daily labourers, require some form of assistance.

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Lebanon’s government has faced criticism for announcing economic and social aid plans with limited details that rarely come to fruition.

In late March, the government pledged approximately $28 million for “nutrition and sanitary assistance”, and on 1 April announced a direct cash hand-out programme.

The finalised details of the latter were presented by Moucharafieh in a press conference last week, only hours after a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report was published warning that more than a million Lebanese could go hungry without government assistance.

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The report raised concerns that the gaps in the country’s social protection system could leave millions at risk of hunger due to pandemic-related lockdown measures and condemned the government’s failure to implement an assistance program, despite the nationwide shutdown measures having been in place for a month.

Senior researcher on poverty and inequality at HRW Lena Simet said: “The lockdown to slow the spread of OVID-19 has compounded the poverty and economic hardship rampant in Lebanon before the virus arrived.”

Adding, “many people who had an income lost it, and if the government does not step in, more than half the population may not be able to afford food and basic necessities.”