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Message from UNHCR's Representative in Lebanon to Refugees

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15.03.2021

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I recently took upon the role of Representative of UNHCR in Lebanon, I wanted to use this opportunity to introduce myself and to provide you with a few updates on the situation, as well as on our ongoing support.

I moved to Lebanon at the end of January and what has clearly struck me from my first day here is how difficult the daily life has become for people. I am witnessing every day how the deep economic and financial crisis in the country, and the impact of COVID-19, has pushed hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, refugees and migrants into extreme poverty. Families who previously managed to pay for their basic necessities like rent, fuel, food and medical costs can no longer afford this and are as a consequence reducing their food intake, going further into debt, and skipping important medical appointments.

We continue documenting these hardships and highlighting the consequent need for more resources to allow us to expand UNHCR’s and our humanitarian partners’ assistance programs to cover more families, in dire need. With some recent increase in the resources at our disposal, UNHCR is able to expand our cash assistance programs to include more vulnerable families.

As of March, UNHCR is increasing the number of families assisted with monthly purpose cash to reach 73,000 families compared to 55,500 families at the beginning of 2021. In addition, UNHCR would add some 6,000 families to the same programme in April, reaching 79,000 families in total. To somewhat compensate for the inflation and sharp rise in prices over the past year, the amount was also increased from 262,500 LBP in 2019 to 400,000/ per family since May 2020.

UNHCR has also just concluded our winter cash assistance progamme, which this season reached more than 201,000 families as well as 8,174 Lebanese families in need of basic assistance. The total amount in LBP was also increased from 562,500 in 2019, to 954,000 per family in 2020.UNHCR was also able to provide kits of essential items to 23,460 families in need of emergency support during winter. Be assured that UNHCR is continuously advocating with donor countries to further expand its assistance programmes.

With regards to the COVID-19 situation, UNHCR, together with humanitarian partners, have joint efforts since the outset of the pandemic to ensure the refugees be fully included in the national COVID-19 response plan. UNHCR allocated 31.5 million USD to increase some of the government hospitals’ capacity and to build isolation centres for COVID-19 patients, to ensure there is enough capacity for the refugees to have access to life-saving services and treatment.UNHCR will continue to cover100% of the costs for hospital treatment, including PCR testing in public hospitals from the NEXtCARE network.

Lebanon is now starting its national vaccination campaign. All vaccines will be distributed free of charge to all residents in Lebanon, including refugees and migrants, and the most fragile persons will be prioritized such as older persons above 75 years, or people suffering from medical conditions. Therefore, UNHCR is encouraging all refugees and stateless persons to come forward and register on the COVID-19 vaccine platform at https://covax.moph.gov.lb/impactmobile/vaccine.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 situation in Lebanon is still critical, with very high numbers of cases and a rising number of hospitalizations - and deaths. Hospitals across Lebanon are overwhelmed. Please do continue to wear masks, wash hands often and stay at a distance from each other. While the launch of the vaccination is a very start, the distribution will take months and we all need to remain extremely careful.

Also, we encourage everyone – including our own staff - to continue abiding by the lockdown measures as long as these are in place, and apply for movement permissions where required.

Due to the ongoing lockdown restrictions, UNHCR Reception Centres remain closed for appointments, but will resume as soon as the COVID-19 situation allows. In the meantime, critic

al interventions continue, and the UNHCR Call Centre and Helplines remain operational to reach us and well as all social media platforms to stay in close contact. The international community remains fully mobilized to help Lebanon come out of this economic crisis, and we will put all our efforts to gather more support.

Please stay safe.

Ayaki Ito.