Saudi Arabia seeks to help Lebanon bear refugee burden (Al-Shorfa)

Saudi Arabia donated three ambulances to Lebanon as part of its aid package to Syrian refugees in the country in 2015. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Shorfa]

With the Syrian crisis entering its fifth year next month, Lebanon continues to rely on assistance from donor countries and international organisations to meet the needs of more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees living on its territory as well as the needs of the Lebanese communities hosting them.
Lebanon in mid-December launched a crisis response plan for 2015 calling for $2.15 billion to enable the country to shoulder its responsibilities towards the displaced and local communities.
In response to the call, the Saudi National Campaign to Support Brothers in Syria announced an $11 million package of humanitarian, educational, vocational and health aid for Lebanon for the year.
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad al-Asiri told Al-Shorfa that the kingdom’s response includes the “provision of education and psychological support to 3,000 Syrian students; coverage of the cost of 1,000 childbirths and provision of a birth kit for each mother; and the provision of 2,000 bundles of bread per day to Syrian families in all areas for a period of six months”.
The aid package also includes “three ambulances earmarked for the Tripoli government hospital, Subul al-Salam Association in al-Minieh, Akkar, and the Municipality of Zaarouria in Iqlim al-Kharroub; and the equipping of a medical centre in the Bekaa Valley that includes a pharmacy providing free medicine to the displaced”, al-Asiri said.
Since the outbreak of the war, the kingdom has been helping Syrians in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, he said.
The campaign also includes implementing a project to educate and train Syrian youth on several vocations — including computer skills, auto repair and sewing — and graduate 300 students every six months, subject to extension, al-Asiri added.
In addition, it will continue to pay rent allowances to 1,100 displaced families for six months — the third such iteration of aid, subject to renewal; provide more than 50,000 Syrian families with hundreds of thousands of blankets and clothing; and distribute 25,000 food rations and pass out fuel for heating, he said.
Al-Asiri said the campaign has already finished construction on 10 water tanks in Baaseer to provide drinking water for people in the region and for displaced Syrians, in addition to a project to generate electricity from solar energy in Akkar, at a total cost of $5 million for both projects, funded by the Saudi Fund for Development.
“It is true this aid is directed at the displaced, but it also helps the Lebanese government through our contribution to the provision of relief and healthcare,” he said. “The kingdom seeks to stand by the Lebanese state and help it bear this economic and social burden, as Arab humanitarian issues are a common concern among brothers.”
‘Poverty on top of poverty’
Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Rashid Derbas welcomed Saudi Arabia’s aid for this year.
This in itself cannot however cover a tragedy of the magnitude as that of the Syrian refugees, he told Al-Shorfa.
Lebanon’s plan to respond to the crisis, in collaboration with 77 international organisations and all of Lebanon’s ministries, aims to meet the needs of the refugees and educate their children, whose number has swollen to 400,000 students, as well as help Lebanese areas and shore up their infrastructures, Derbas said.
A portion of the $2.15 billion Lebanon requested for the year 2015-2016 will go towards resolving Lebanon’s problems and ensuring its stability, Derbas said. The remainder will be allocated to the humanitarian campaign, which will be directed at both Lebanese and Syrians.
“According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ statistics, 80% of the poverty-stricken Syrian refugees are guests of 76% of the poverty-stricken Lebanese, in other words, poverty on top of poverty,” he added.
Lebanon currently has a deficit of $20 billion, according to Derbas.
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour spoke to health needs of Syrian refugees and Lebanese residents.
“Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are among the countries that have helped Lebanon the most in meeting its needs in dealing with displacement and its consequences,” he said.
Abu Faour called for additional health aid, adding, “The health issue imposes itself, and this issue is covered by civil society, international organisations and some Arab campaigns.”