Death of children fleeing Syria is a ‘human tragedy’, says MENA UNICEF director

A Syrian refugee removes snow from tents at a makeshift settlement in Bar Elias, in the Bekaa valley. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Death of children fleeing Syria is a ‘human tragedy’, says MENA UNICEF director

BEIRUT: The death of children fleeing Syria due to extreme cold weather at the Syrian-Lebanese border is a “humanitarian tragedy for the world to stop,” Khairat Kabalari, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa has said.
“It is tragic that more than a dozen Syrians, including two children, have died in eastern Lebanon near the border crossing with Syria — the Syrians are risking their lives and the lives of their children in an attempt to escape,” Kabalari added.
He praised the efforts of the Lebanese authorities in searching for those who are still trapped in the mountains in freezing temperatures.
He said his organization is working in cooperation with a group of partners to help families cope with the harsh weather by distributing blankets and winter clothes and fueling schools.
The number of Syrians who have died trying to flee their war-torn country into neighboring Lebanon during a snowstorm had risen to at least 13, the United Nations said on Saturday.
A group of Syrians, including children, had tried to enter neighboring Lebanon late on Thursday through a smuggling route but were caught in a fierce storm.
The Lebanese army and civil defense said on Friday they had retrieved the bodies of 10 Syrians, including two children and six women.


Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

Updated 45 min 6 sec ago
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Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

BEIRUT: Bank deposits in Lebanon have risen by 4 percent on the year, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday, and he maintained his economic growth outlook for 2018 at 2 percent.

In July Salameh had said he expected bank deposits to grow by more than 5 percent in 2018.

In October the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) halved their growth outlook to one percent for Lebanon, where public debt is about 150 percent of gross domestic product.

“Lebanese banks have succeeded in maintaining foreign exchange inflows into their sector supported by (the central bank),” Salmeh said in a televised speech at a Beirut economic conference.

With growth low and traditional sources of foreign exchange — tourism, real estate and foreign investment — undermined by years of regional tension, Lebanon increasingly relies on dollars expatriate Lebanese deposit in local banks.

The banks buy government debt, which finances the country’s eye-watering public debt and twin deficits.

The central bank also brings in dollars through complex financial operations with local banks to boost foreign currency reserves needed to defend the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar.

However, deposits have been growing at a slower rate since war broke out in neighboring Syria in 2011, and deposit growth rates are closely watched.