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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 January 2021

World Bank approves $250m emergency aid for vulnerable Lebanese

Lebanon will enter total lockdown on Thursday as it struggles to cope with record coronavirus cases

The World Bank Group on Tuesday approved a $246 million aid package to help 786,000 vulnerable Lebanese struggling amidst the country's worst economic crisis in since the 1975-1990 war and a global pandemic.

A sharp increase in coronavirus cases has compounded the crisis, forcing businesses shut and denying daily wage earners an income in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty.

Lebanon, home to six million people, where the World Bank "project will provide 147,000 extreme poor Lebanese households (approximately 786,000 individuals) with cash assistance for one year," a statement said.

"Eligible households will receive a monthly transfer of 100,000 Lebanese pounds ($65) per household member, in addition to a flat amount of 200,000 Lebanese pounds per household," it said.

It will also give 87,000 children between the ages of 13-18 year a top-up cash transfer to cover the direct costs of schooling including fees, textbook and transport and school uniform expenses.

"Lebanon has been facing compounded and unprecedented crises. A severe economic and financial crisis led to a projected 19.2 per cent decline in GDP in 2020, triple digit inflation and a projected increase in poverty to 45 per cent and in extreme poverty to 22 per cent," the Bank said.

An explosion at the Port of Beirut in August, which killed more than 200 people and devastated large parts of the capital, has further compounded the country's economic woes.

Central bank governor Riad Salameh sounded the alarm bells last month, warning the nation could only afford to subsidise vital imports at the official rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar for an additional two months, further highlighting Lebanon’s failure in reforming its subsidy programme, which may exacerbate its deepening financial crisis.

Lebanese fear food shortages under lockdown

Lebanon will enforce a 24-hour curfew for 11 days from Thursday, after daily infections spiked by some 70 per cent over the past week.

The surge in new cases is among the steepest in the world.

Under the new measures, non-essential workers will not be allowed out of the house and supermarkets will only operate delivery services.

This has prompted fears of food shortages as such services are not readily available in impoverished and remote regions.

Updated: January 13, 2021 05:19 PM

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